Defund Obamacare Senators Worry As House GOP Waffles

Linda Norman, right, and Joanna Galt, both from Florida, hold their banners during a "Exempt America from Obamacare" rally on the West Lawn of the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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The Senate leaders of the defund Obamacare movement — Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (TX), Rand Paul (KY) and Mike Lee (UT) — remained steadfast Tuesday in their crusade to strip funding for the health care reform law, even though they acknowledged that the House GOP might have just eliminated their leverage in the fight.

Paul told TPM that the House GOP’s plan, announced Tuesday morning, would effectively rob Republicans of any real leverage to defund the law. Though Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has attempted to portray the maneuver as forcing Senate Democrats to take a vote siding with the still unpopular law, the gambit would still allow the Senate to vote on a continuing resolution without defunding the government and without sending it back to House again for a second vote.

A conference is the only way that Obamacare could plausibly get defunded, Paul said. That’s not going to happen with the House GOP’s strategy.

“I’m not sure it addresses the problem necessarily. The only way we have our leverage is if we have to go to conference committee,” Paul said. “I think our only leverage is if we could reach a temporary impasse.”

On the question of whether they have enough votes in either chamber to defund the law, Lee told reporters he didn’t know.

“There are not enough names on the two letters (in the House and Senate),” Lee said, referring to the letters he and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) are circulating in their respective chambers to solicit support for defunding Obamacare. “But there are a lot of people who will end up voting with us, notwithstanding the fact that they didn’t see fit to sign the letter.”

Asked by TPM if the House GOP’s proposal indicated that Republican leadership was unwilling to take the defund Obamacare fight to its fullest extent, Lee acknowledged that it did.

“If my understanding of what they’re wanting to do is correct, then yes,” Lee said. “If what they want is a show vote, if what they want is cover, and they choose to do this, then they’ve got their reward.”

All three senators addressed hundreds of protesters in front of U.S. Capitol, as the bus tour that Cruz started during the summer recess finally arrived in Washington. Patriot hats, Obama caricatures and anti-socialist slogans populated the crowd. But a small tinge of uncertainty loomed over the event after news broke that House Republicans would advance a plan that would effectively guarantee Obamacare remains funded.

At one point, a speaker angrily dismissed the proposal as a “gimmick.”

“Any strategy that allows Harry Reid to fund Obamacare is a failed strategy,” Cruz told a small group of reporters before speaking. “I don’t think the American people are interested in yet another symbolic vote. If you oppose Obamacare, don’t fund it.”

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