A dozen Republican senators sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday stating they will not support any short-term spending bill if it contains funds to implement President Obama’s health care law.
The effort, spearheaded by Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, has attracted support from rising stars in the party, including Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
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Conservatives see upcoming budget talks as their last chance to thwart “Obamacare” before the administration launches state-by-state insurance markets on Oct. 1, a key milestone in the law’s implementation. The system of “health exchanges” will allow people without employer-based insurance to buy coverage through government subsidies.
Backers of the Lee proposal say Republicans have to take a stand against the Affordable Care Act, which the party has lambasted since Democratic majorities powered it through Congress in 2010.
But GOP leaders in the House and Senate have not offered support for the proposal. It is fraught with risk, since Republicans could be blamed if a budget threat over Obamacare brings the nation’s fiscal house to the brink.
Some Republican lawmakers cast doubt on the defunding threat this week, saying it puts spending priorities such as the military at risk.
Mr. Rubio said party colleagues sign on to Mr. Lee’s letter and not concede defeat before the fight has even begun.
Supporters of the bid to “defund Obamacare” hope to leverage wavering support for the law and the White House’s decision July 2 to delay by one year, to 2015, a mandate that requires employers with 50 or more full-time workers to provide health coverage or pay fines.
“We view the Obama Administration’s recent decision to delay Obamacare’s employer mandate and eligibility verification for the individual exchanges as further proof the law is a failure that will inevitably hurt businesses, American families, and the economy,” their letter says. “In light of this admission, we believe the only way to avert disaster is to fully repeal Obamacare and start over with a more sensible, practical approach to reforming our health care system.”
Those signing the letter included: Sens. James Risch of Idaho, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, David Vitter of Louisiana, John Thune of South Dakota, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Jeff Chiesa of New Jersey.