Sen. Mike Lee on Sunday acknowledged Sunday that the federal government likely will avoid a shutdown after a high-stakes budget debate this September, but he wants to see the government continue its work without President Obama's health care law.
"Businesses don't like it, individuals hate it," Mr. Lee, Utah Republican, told Fox News Sunday.
Mr. Lee and other Senate conservatives are seeking support for their pledge to reject spending bills that include money to implement the Affordable Care Act.
The senators, who include rising GOP stars Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, say the party needs to draw a line in the sand when it comes to Obamacare. They view the budget debate as their last chance to dismantle the reforms before the Obama administration begins to enroll Americans in state-by-state insurance markets on Oct. 1, a key milestone in implementing the health care law.
The markets, or "exchanges," are places where those without employer-based insurance can buy health coverage with the help of government subsidies. It is widely viewed as the most significant part of Obamacare's rollout to date and could determine the success or failure of Mr. Obama's signature domestic achievement.
But not all Republicans are on board with Mr. Lee's plan. GOP leaders in the House and Senate have not signed onto the effort, while other have decried it as reckless.
"The fact is we shouldn't be using it as a threat to shut down the government," Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, said on CNN's "State of the Union" program Sunday.
Mr. Lee said Congress will ultimately pass spending plans to keep the government open and he isn't fazed by the criticism.
"Look, I understand that there's some in the Washington establishment, some from both political parties that weren't happy with me over this," he told Fox. "And in this instance, I'm going to take that as a compliment, an indication that I'm doing something right."
Mr. Lee said the Obama administration itself acknowledged problems with the law when it decided this month to delay for one year, to 2015, the mandate that requires employers with 50 or more full-time workers to provide health coverage or pay fines.
Critics of the law say ordinary Americans should get a similar reprieve from the "individual mandate" requiring most Americans to obtain some form of health insurance.
"What I'm saying is that if the president isn't ready to implement the law, if the law's not ready for prime time, Congress shouldn't fund it," Mr. Lee said.
Even if the GOP doesn't use the short-term spending plan, or "continuing resolution," as a bargaining chip to defund the health care law, the party has united behind other efforts to dismantle Mr. Obama's reforms.
This week, the House will vote on a bill that would prohibit the IRS from implementing or enforcing any provisions of the law. The bill is all but certain to pass the Republican-led chamber but die in the Democrat-controlled Senate, mirroring dozens of other attempts to repeal all or part of the law.
"Republicans have little to show for their efforts as they prepare to head home for the month of August," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said ahead of the vote. "Their record is defined more by what they have failed to do than what they have achieved — with no jobs bills, no budget agreement, and no solutions for the middle class."
Mr. Obama, in an interview Sunday with The New York Times, dismissed Republican efforts to repeal the health care plan and predicted that "all the nightmare scenarios" about the law's implementation will fade away in the coming months.
"We're going to implement it," he said.
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