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Senate pressed on Obamacare

‘Up or down’ vote sought to withhold funds

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Top House Republicans on Tuesday challenged Senate Democrats to hold a vote on legislation to defund President Obama's health care law as part of any spending deal this month — but they were facing a potential rebellion within their own ranks because the move wouldn't force an all-or-nothing showdown.

Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said there is swelling discontent with the law and that his caucus has done its part to reel in Obamacare before it takes root through state-based health exchanges this fall.

While most of Capitol Hill focuses on Syria, Mr. Boehner said the House will vote Wednesday on a bill that requires the Obama administration to verify the income of everyone who seeks government subsidies on the exchanges to offset their health premiums.

"We also will have a vote on the continuing resolution this week, and along with that vote, we will send to the Senate the provision which says, 'Up or down, are you for defunding Obamacare or not?'" said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican. "The House has taken a stand numerous times on its opinion of Obamacare. It's time for the Senate to stand up and tell their constituents where they stand on this atrocity of a law."

A number of conservatives have said they won't vote for any bill that doesn't remove funding for the health law, but Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have said that is a non-starter.

House GOP leaders hoped the two-step process would allow conservatives to vote for defunding health care, but give the Senate an easy way to reject that provision and still fund the government past Oct. 1, preventing a government shutdown.

The conservatives said Tuesday they aren't buying it. Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said the GOP leadership's plan calls for "meaningless" and "symbolic" votes.

"Last night, stories emerged that some House Republicans are considering procedural tricks to let them vote on defunding Obamacare, and then to let [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid strip it out and fund Obamacare," Mr. Cruz told anti-Obamacare ralliers on Tuesday. "Let me ask you all a question: Is an empty symbolic vote enough?"

"No," the audience shouted in a park near the Capitol.

For weeks, senior Republicans have been reluctant to risk any blame for a government shutdown by digging in their heels over the health care law.

Instead, they've tried to hold message-based votes chipping away at the law.

Another of those votes will come Wednesday on a bill that Rep. Diane Black, Tennessee Republican, filed in response to reports the Obama administration would rely on the honor system instead of verifying enrollees' income before they obtained taxpayers' money to defray their health costs.

"The idea that you could go to one of these exchanges and just promise, 'This is what I made last year,' is problematic," Mr. Boehner told reporters at his weekly news conference. "Our job is to spend the American people's tax money wisely. And I believe that this will lead to an awful lot of abuse, and it really should not occur."

Members of the Obama administration have testified they will still cross-check the income of enrollees, but Republicans say their promises have not been codified in regulations.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., New Jersey Democrat, told the House Rules Committee on Tuesday the bill is unnecessary and yet another attempt by House Republicans to hold back the health care law.

The bill is likely to pass the House but stands little chance of gaining a vote in the Senate, where other attempts to alter the health care law have withered on the legislative vine.

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