Rising stars in the Republican Party pushed Congress on Thursday to strip all funding from President Obama’s health care law, even as Senate Democrats struck down piecemeal efforts to kill the law’s most controversial mandates.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas introduced a bill with nine GOP co-sponsors to defund implementation of the Affordable Care Act, calling the 2010 law “a colossal mistake” just hours after fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said Congress shouldn’t even pass any short-term stopgap spending bills unless they cancel funding for “Obamacare.”
Both first-term senators rode a wave of tea party sentiment against big government to election. Mr. Cruz, who took office in January, has been an outspoken freshman who’s pulled no punches in his criticism of Mr. Obama, while Mr. Rubio seems to be burnishing his conservative credentials after taking heat from the right for guiding comprehensive immigration reform through the Senate.
Now, they’re vocal parts of the fight against Mr. Obama’s law, jumping on the White House’s sudden decision to delay until 2015 the employer mandate, which requires businesses with more than 50 full-time workers to provide health insurance or pay fines.
Republicans have cheered the delay afforded to businesses but said they want to see average Americans get a break, too.
“Although the delay is good news, it does raise questions about the viability of the law,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Jerry Moran, Kansas Republican, tried to force the debate on Thursday, offering amendments to defund both the employer and individual mandates as part of the Appropriations Committee’s health spending bill. Both measures were defeated on party-line votes, 16-14.
Democrats accuse Republicans of trying to obstruct the law at every turn, which they said was why Mr. Obama had to delay the employer mandate.
Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat and an author of the health care law, said as long as he is chairman of the health spending subcommittee, he will make sure the funding continues to flow to keep the law intact.
To do so, though, he’ll have to grapple with House Republicans who after last week’s employer mandate delay have stiffened their resolve to try to cancel the entire law.
“I think it’s unfair and indefensible,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday. “If you’re a software company making billions of dollars in profits you’re exempt from ‘Obamacare’ next year, but if you’re a 28-year old struggling to pay off your student loans, you’re not.”
He said the House will hold votes next week on whether to delay both the employer mandate and the individual mandate, forcing Democrats to defend the embattled law or distance themselves from the reforms and the White House’s decision-making.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat and staunch supporter of the health care law, rejected talk of delaying the individual mandate after a reporter asked whether there was any “virtue” in the Republicans’ proposal.
“No, absolutely not,” she said. “I don’t think it’s virtuous at all.”