- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2013

Despite warnings from their own party leaders, a breakaway group of conservative Republicans pushed ahead Thursday with a plan to defund President Obama’s new health care law as part of an upcoming spending battle, even as administration officials assured Congress they will be ready to implement the health reforms on time.

Outspoken senators and House members huddled with tea party activists outside the Capitol and challenged Congress to pass a short-term spending plan in September that provides no money for President Obama’s signature law. Failure to pass the spending package could lead to a government shutdown.

They demonized the overhaul as a “job-killer,” a “huge train wreck” and a “flesh-eating bacteria” that’s even managed to alienate some Democrats and labor unions.

“Now is the single best time and best opportunity to defeat Obamacare,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican. “No. 2, this is a fight that we can win. And No. 3, only the American people can win this.”

The stakes are mounting, with two months to go until the administration begins to enroll Americans who do not hold employer-based coverage into state-based insurance markets, or “exchanges” — considered critical to the overall success of the health law.

Enrollees with qualifying incomes will obtain government subsidies to defray the costs of private health insurance.

Democrats are cheering the effort down the homestretch while criticizing their GOP colleagues’ efforts to repeal the 3-year-old law.

“The Affordable Care Act deserved bipartisan support, but we faced united opposition from Republicans in the Congress, who did not want to give President Obama a victory,” Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, said Thursday. “And since then, the law has become the Republicans’ great white whale. They will stop at nothing to kill it.”

To some congressional Republicans, led by Mr. Cruz and Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida, that includes shutting down the government.

But Republican Party leaders in both chambers have not backed the defunding drive, and senior GOP lawmakers have criticized the emerging campaign as futile and reckless.

Republicans who have resisted the effort say that they are committed to repealing the health care law, but that threatening to shut down the government to make their point could backfire and harm the party’s reputation.

“No decisions have been made on how we’re going to proceed with the [continuing resolution],” House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Thursday.

Timing is key, and both parties know it.

With 60 days remaining until the exchanges go live, Democrats on Thursday lambasted Republican leaders for trying to hobble the roll-out of a law they would like to kill.

“The Republican mission is clear: Don’t implement, destroy,” Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said Thursday at the start of a hearing on the law’s progress.

Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel told lawmakers his embattled agency, which will play a key role in the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, will not let tax information fall into the wrong hands, while a deputy director from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) said the administration will beef up its verification system to make sure enrollees do not misrepresent their incomes when they apply for government subsidies.

CMS Administration Marilyn Tavenner told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that enrollees’ income levels will be verified through 2012 tax returns and through Equifax, a credit-score tracker. If the two do not match, the exchanges will request pay stubs or other information.

She said “as soon as we find out that there is a problem, if they’re not eligible for tax credits, they would be removed immediately.”

Mr. Cruz told bloggers at the Heritage Foundation this week that it will be difficult to roll back the tax credits once the American public develops a taste for them. Next month’s spending showdown is the last chance to dismantle the health care law, after the Supreme Court upheld it and Mr. Obama retook the White House last year, according to Utah’s Mr. Lee.

Despite rampant enmity, the health care law’s supporters and detractors agree on one thing — the law will have a lasting impact.

Mr. Rubio sees that as a bad thing.

“It will do irrevocable damage to our economy and our country,” he said.

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