Marco Rubio isn’t on an apology tour, exactly. It’s more like a “really, I’m a strict conservative, I swear!” sort of tour.
Rubio is taking a mini-swing through Florida to show his support for a Tea Party-led initiative to shut down the government if Congress does not defund Obamacare.
On Monday, Rubio, a potential candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, made stops in Jacksonville and Gainesville to make his pitch. He’ll be in Panama City on Tuesday and Pensacola on Wednesday.
“Let’s take a timeout here. Let’s not fund this thing. Let’s suspend this thing at a minimum. I would like to see it repealed, but at a minimum let’s suspend it,” he said in Gainesville.
The pitch comes as support for the one-time GOP golden boy shrinks amid his leading role in the push for bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform. One poll by Rasmussen shows Rubio is viewed favorably by 58% of Republicans, down 15 points from February and 10 points in the past six weeks. Another from Quinnipiac shows voters in Florida disapprove of the way Rubio is handling immigration 41% to 33%.
The mention of his name at a recent Tea Party rally even drew boos from the crowd.
A number of GOP senators aligned with the Tea Party, including Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas, want to defund Obamacare as part of a government spending bill. In an apparent effort to get back in the good graces of conservatives, Rubio has thrown in with Lee and Cruz. But that’s created a rift in the party, with several prominent Republican voices arguing the strategy is irresponsible.
While a repeal of Obamacare won’t happen—it would never pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate or be approved by the president—the GOP-controlled House has continued to hold symbolic votes on the issue. Earlier this month, the House voted to repeal Obamacare for the 40th time.
But here’s the thing: ObamaCare cannot be defunded. There are already billions of dollars set aside for its implementation. The defund camp is essentially just throwing a ball against a wall.
Congress is currently on vacation, but the effort to tie funding to the repeal of Obamacare will be tested in September when lawmakers will be tasked with passing a resolution to keep the government running after Sept. 30. So far, 13 GOP senators have signed an online pledge by the Senate Conservative Fund to repeal the health care law and oppose any bill that provides funding to implement any part of it.
Meanwhile, in what’s being seen as a blow to Obamacare, a key consumer protection in the law has been delayed. That means some insurers will be able to keep raising costs until 2015. Once in effect, the provision will limit out-of-pocket healthcare costs (like copays and deductibles) to $6350 for an individual and $12,700 for a family.
That comes as the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act has been pushed back a year to 2015. That provision requires employees with at least 50 full-time workers to offer health insurance or face penalties. Rubio, alongside several other GOPers, have pounced on the delay, insisting it’s proof that Obamacare will lead Americans toward disaster.
“The president himself has already admitted that a significant portion of the law isn’t working, and that’s why he’s delayed portions of it for a year,” Rubio said in Gainesville.