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Obamacare encore

"Obamacare encore" Continued...

Brent Bozell, the chairman of ForAmerica, warned lawmakers, “If you fund Obamacare, you own it.” Despite this threat, not all Republicans are backing the tactic. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., called it the “dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” Other members of the Senate old guard also attacked the plan: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the plan “shenanigans,” while Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., labeled it “foolish.”

This branch of the congressional GOP argues that even if the House passes a spending bill with no funds for Obamacare, then the Democratic-led Senate will reject it. And even if it somehow miraculously passes the Senate, Obama already has pledge to veto it.

“When people really start to think about the consequences of shutting down the entire federal government and inconveniencing and harming, quite frankly, millions of Americans, millions out of work, tens of millions denied services they need, you change the debate from Obamacare to the government shutdown,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. “That’s just not a good strategy.”

But Cruz and his allies argue that the president will be blamed for any government shutdown if he vetoes a spending bill that funds all of the government except for Obamacare. Cruz believes it is important to act now before the new government program starts. The administration’s plan, he said, “is to get as many people as possible addicted to the sugar, addicted to the subsidies. It is an iron rule of politics that those who receive subsidies, inevitably, after they start receiving those subsidies, fight to retain those subsidies.”

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a strong opponent of Obama’s healthcare overhaul while it was a bill being debated, argued there is not a “legislative method that we have that is capable of defunding it short of 67 votes in the U.S Senate, short of two-thirds votes in the U.S. House.” That’s the votes needed to override a presidential veto. Coburn said a recent report by the Congressional Research Service found most of Obamacare spending is slotted in the mandatory spending side of the budget and not under the discretionary spending side that can be tweaked by lawmakers. Agencies tasked with implementing the law could also plug into other funding sources.

“Their motives are absolutely pure,” Coburn said of the Cruz, Lee, and Rubio faction. “The only effective way to truly stop Obamacare would be to totally reverse it.”

But Cruz said Americans are tired of all the speeches against Obamacare and all the symbolic votes (he called them “fig leaf votes”) to repeal the law that don’t really accomplish anything. The Republican-led House has voted to repeal all or parts of Obamacare at least 40 times. On Friday, the last day before they began their recess, the House passed a bill called the “Keep the IRS Off Your Healthcare Act.” All of these bills have gone nowhere in the Senate.

So Cruz has not backed down from his strategy despite pressure from senior members in his party. He has gone on radio programs to describe the “powerful defeatist approach among Republicans in Washington” and to label Washington Republicans as “scared of being beaten up politically.” It’s the kind of boat-rocking Cruz promised he would do when he was an underdog Senate candidate in Texas last summer.

Cruz hopes that enough Republicans and Democrats (motivated by their constituents) in the Senate could come together to reach the 41 votes needed to filibuster a must-pass measure like the one to fund the federal government. That leverage, Cruz believes, could force Democrats to pass a funding bill that leaves out Obamacare while keeping the rest of the government open.

Regardless, both factions of Republican lawmakers see August as a critical period for getting the public on their side when it comes to the future of Obamacare, and they have plenty of ammunition to make their arguments.

Ohio government officials announced Thursday they expect individual residents would see a 41 percent increase in their premiums when they start buying health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges next year. Premiums will cost $332.58 a month on average in 2014, after costing $236.29 in 2013. On the same day Ohioans learned of their rate hikes, Daniel Werfel, the acting chief of the Internal Revenue Service, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill he would prefer to keep his current policy and not go on Obamacare. That follows a form letter sent by the National Treasury Employee’s Union to its members, which includes IRS workers, asking them to sign and send to their lawmakers. The letter demands they be exempt from Obamacare’s insurance exchanges.


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