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Defunding or defending

"Defunding or defending" Continued...

“If they pass a bill when they get back in September,” DeMint said, “and they fund government and they go out and say, ‘We funded the government, Mr. President, it’s your decision whether to accept that funding or shut the government down,’ I think it’s an argument we can win.”

Many attendees at the rallies jeered conservative lawmakers for backing down on pledges to do everything possible to defund Obamacare, and they promised to hold those lawmakers accountable.

“Through the ballot box, we can make them shake in their boots,” Rafael Cruz said in Tampa. “You vote the right way or we’re going to vote you out of office!”

DeMint supports an alternative plan that includes permitting small businesses to partner in healthcare coverage so they can share resources and allowing individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines so that more competition drives down prices. But the focus of the summer rallies, DeMint said, was “helping people understand that we can still stop this.”

It remains to be seen if the grassroots voices were loud enough to get more lawmakers to act. The volume and intensity of town halls this August did not approach the levels seen in the summer of 2009. Those meetings shook lawmakers, reverberating all the way to Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, DeMint and other conservatives opposed to Obamacare are not the only ones engaging in summer stumping. On Wednesday, former President Bill Clinton gave a lengthy, detail-laden speech defending Obamacare at his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark.

Acknowledging that “this law has generated a lot of opposition,” Clinton tried to make the case that “there are no real alternatives to fix the current system.”

“I think we should all work together to implement this law, whether we supported its passage or not,” he said. “It’s better than the current system, which is unaffordable and downright unhealthy for millions of Americans.”

Tellingly, at least one lawmaker was absent from Clinton’s pro-Obamacare appearance. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., was nowhere to be found. He voted for the healthcare law despite labeling himself a moderate. Pryor’s support for Obamacare is expected to be a key item of debate as he seeks reelection this November against Rep. Tom Cotton, a Tea Party Republican.

Clinton’s speech kicked off a slew of planned star appearances orchestrated by the White House this fall as it tries to enhance Obamacare’s image and reputation. This spin and promotion for Obamacare is expected to carry a $684 million price tag for taxpayers. That includes a $75 million marketing budget for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and an estimated $67 million in grants awarded to 105 groups across the country, including Planned Parenthood, to enroll individuals into the program. There is even an Obamacare video contest, sponsored by the HHS, providing cash prizes for winners.  

As conservatives work to defund and White House officials work to defend Obamacare, many Americans seem to be confused—four-in-10 think the law already has been repealed, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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