GOP senators threaten government shutdown to derail Obamacare

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. center, smiles from inside an elevator as he leaves reporters who were following him behind after he spoke at the Faith and Freedom...
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. center, smiles from inside an elevator as he leaves reporters who were following him behind after he spoke at the Faith and Freedom...
Charles Dharapak/AP

Tea Partiers have a new tactic to get rid of Obamacare: they want to shut that whole government thing down.

Senate Republicans are gathering behind a new message that they would rather cut funds to the government—preventing it from running properly—than allow Obamacare to live another day. As Florida Sen. Marco Rubio put it earlier this month: “You want to delay implementation? Don’t fund it.”

“I believe that we should not vote, nor pass, a continuing resolution unless that continuing resolution defunds Obamacare,” he told the Washington Times.

Congress last voted to pass a continuing resolution for the federal operating budget back in March, temporarily funding the government through the end of the fiscal year. This stopgap measure has become common practice to circumvent appropriations approvals and budgets for the coming fiscal year. On Sept. 30, that continuing resolution passed in March will need to be renewed. And Republicans are drawing the battle lines early.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah has a proposal that holds hostage a vote on the continuing resolution unless Congress agrees to gut the provisions of Obamacare that have not yet been implemented—namely the individual mandate. Lee told The Blaze his proposal has “13 or 14” supporters, and the conservative Club for Growth is now pressuring Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to sign onto Utah Republican’s efforts.

Lee’s proposal is almost tame compared to what his Senate colleague Ted Cruz has lined up—the Texas Republican wants to see funding for the Affordable Care Act dismantled in its entirety. But not all conservatives in the Senate are behind the efforts. Sen. John McCain condemned government shutdown threats from Republicans saying over the weekend, “most Americans are really tired of those kinds of shenanigans.”

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole repeatedly called out Senate Republicans and his House colleagues with similar ambitions this week, dismissing the latest conservative calls for shutdown as a “temper tantrum” that is “not helpful” to the ultimate goal of getting rid of the law.

Efforts in the House to derail Obamacare continue to gather steam—Republicans have already voted 38 times (so far) to repeal the healthcare law, either partially or in full. But Speaker John Boehner told Sean Hannity in March that risking the full faith and credit of the country just to defund Obamacare would be a “very tough argument to make.” Instead, Boehner said this week that House Republicans would be willing to take those risks by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless there were more harsh spending cuts.

President Obama chided the GOP’s aggressive efforts to derail his signature piece of legislation during an economic speech on Wednesday. “If you think you have a better plan for making sure every American family has the security of quality, affordable health care, stop making meaningless repeal votes and share your concrete ideas with the country,” Obama said.

“You can’t just be against something, you’ve got to be for something,” he continued.

With polls showing that 49% of Americans think Obamacare is a bad idea, Republicans see their window of opportunity closing as the Jan. 1 deadline for its implementation looms. Sen. Lee told Fox and Friends earlier this week, “This is the last stop before Obamacare fully kicks in.”