Cruz, others press effort to deny funds to health reform law

Democrats decry continued opposition

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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.

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