Tea Party Leaders Press on for Calls to Defund Obamacare

GOP lawmakers continue to push their plan to defund the law despite intraparty concerns

September 10, 2013

Republican lawmakers reiterated their calls on Tuesday to defund the Affordable Care Act and tried to refocus attention on an issue that has been largely overshadowed by developments in Syria.

Members of Congress addressed a crowd at the Tea Party Patriots’ "Exempt America Rally" on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Supporters said the coming weeks are the last opportunity to stop legislation they see as riddled with flaws. However, their plan to derail it has not been well received by everyone in the conservative movement, and critics have pointed to their efforts as an imprudent tactic that has many risks.

Congress passed legislation in March that "[kept] federal funds flowing to government agencies through Sept. 30." If Congress neglects to approve a continuing resolution (CR) before that date, the government will go unfunded, resulting in a government shutdown.

Major provisions of Obamacare begin to take effect Oct. 1.

Sens. Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Ted Cruz (R., Texas) were amongst those who spoke on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Tuesday.

"The movement itself I think is continuing to gain traction, mostly because it’s beginning to gain traction amongst the American people … the question is whether that will make the difference between Congress funding Obamacare or not," Lee told the Washington Free Beacon.

Some GOP members want to seize on this perceived momentum and have signed onto a letter drafted by Lee, which announces their refusal to "support any continuing resolution or appropriations legislation that funds further implementation or enforcement of Obamacare."

Some in the GOP do not think this will be an effective way to stop the implementation of Obamacare. 

"I think it’s a silly effort," Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) previously told MSNBC’s "Daily Rundown." 

"What people are really saying who are behind that effort is that, 'We don’t have the courage to roll up our sleeves and deal with real deficit reduction and spending decisions, and we want to take ourselves out of the debate and act like we’re being principled to the American people.'"

Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) expressed a similar sentiment in July, telling the Washington Examiner that a government shutdown could cost Republicans control of the House.

Lee disagreed with such sentiments and said worries of a government shutdown are misplaced.

"I’ve never called for a shutdown. I don’t want a shutdown. We don’t need a shutdown. What I’ve said is I want to fund everything in government, and I’m willing to fund even programs that I hate. Even programs that I think are wasteful, except Obamacare. I want to fund everything but Obamacare," Lee said.

For supporters of defunding Obamacare, the benefits of Lee's proposal outweigh the criticisms within their party.

"Obamacare is the single biggest job killer in America," Cruz told the Free Beacon.

"More and more people are losing their jobs. More and more people are finding their hours forcibly reduced to twenty-nine hours a week. More and more people are seeing their health insurance premiums skyrocket or losing their healthcare all together. It is not working … this is our single best opportunity to defund it," he said.

Speakers at Tuesday’s rally encouraged supporters to urge their representatives to defund the law. Nearly 1.2 million people have signed an online petition that says just that.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) proposed a plan in the House to separate the vote on funding Obamacare from the CR. Instead, they would be able to vote on two separate measures, which would then "be brought under a rule that allows the Senate to send just the clean CR to the president, but only after they first vote on whether to defund Obamacare," according to National Review.

No one at the rally thought Cantor’s plan was viable.

"Any strategy that allows Harry Reid to fund Obamacare is a failed strategy," Cruz told a reporter.