- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 11, 2013

A key House Republican leading the charge to defund President Obama’s health care law said Sunday that the GOP does not have the votes right now to succeed in cutting off the program.

But Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who wants to see the House GOP insist on defunding the Affordable Care Act in exchange for agreeing to fund the rest of government, said the moves the Obama administration is making could end up changing minds and bolster support for rank-and-file Republicans’ strategy.

Asked if there were the votes, Mr. Gohmert was unequivocal.

“No, not now,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “But we’ll see after August, after people go home.”

All Republicans want to delay or eliminate most or all of the health law, but they are deeply divided over how much of a priority that should be right now at a time when the economy is still somewhat sluggish and Washington faces both spending and debt fights later this year.

Some in the GOP, including Mr. Gohmert, want to use Congress’ power of the purse to say that they will fund the government in 2014 only if Mr. Obama agrees to suspend his health law. Under those Republicans’ scenario, the House GOP would refuse to pass a bill that keeps the law intact — even if it means a government shutdown.

Other Republicans argue against that, saying funding the government is too important to hold hostage to health care.

On Friday, Mr. Obama threw gasoline on the debate, using a summer news conference to mock Republicans for trying to eliminate his signature achievement.

“The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care,” he said.

Mr. Obama went on to poke at Republicans, who initially had said they would “repeal and replace” the health law with something else that would still help people get insurance.

“There’s not even a pretense now that they’re going to replace it with something better,” Mr. Obama said.

Key parts of the health law, which passed in 2010, go into effect starting next year — and the state marketplaces, or “exchanges,” which will offer insurance to the uninsured, often with government subsidies, are to be set up later this year.

But reports suggest the Obama administration is behind in preparing for implementation, and that has led the president to have to tinker on his own.

Last month, he delayed the law’s “employer mandate,” which requires employers of 50 or more full-time workers to provide health coverage or pay fines. Still, he has left in place the law’s “individual mandate” requiring Americans to have coverage.

Mr. Gohmert said that dissonance doesn’t sit well with average voters, and it could end up boosting support for those in the GOP trying to repeal it.

“What about the poor guy out there making $14,000? He’s going to pay extra income tax if he cannot afford to pay the several thousand dollars for an Obamacare policy,” Mr. Gohmert said. “Who’s caring about him?”

Mr. Obama said the employer delay was based on business leaders’ concerns about the reporting requirements tied to the mandate. Normally, he said, he would approach Republican leaders and say they need to tweak the law.

“But we’re not in a normal atmosphere around here when it comes to quote-unquote Obamacare,” he told reporters.

Republican aides laughed off the president’s assertions in a battery of Twitter messages.

The Republican-led House, they said, was more than willing to pass a bill that codified the employer-mandate delay into law.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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