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Topics: Obamacare

House GOP proposal to defund Obamacare divides Senate Republicans

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Obamacare,Republican Party,John Boehner,Health Care,PennAve,House Republicans

A House Republican proposal that temporarily funds the government while permanently defunding Obamacare landed like a cleaver among Senate Republicans on Wednesday, with lawmakers sharply divided over how far they should go in the effort to block the new health care law.

Republican senators huddled for a private weekly meeting Wednesday to discuss the proposal, which was unveiled by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, earlier in the day and is slated for a House vote on Friday.

Many House Republicans say they are enthusiastic about the plan, which provides funding for government operations at current levels through Dec. 15 — avoiding a government shutdown on Oct. 1 — and excludes any money for the new health care law they vehemently oppose.

There is similar enthusiasm for the bill in the Senate, but only among a fledgling faction of conservative Republicans that has picked up support but which still represents a minority of Republican lawmakers.

"I think it's terrific," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of those enthusiasts, told the Washington Examiner.

Most Senate Republicans, however, are wary of the plan or outright opposed to it because they fear it will lead to a government shut down for which the GOP will be blamed.

Democrats are guaranteed to oppose the bill because it defunds Obamacare, and the ensuing gridlock could mean that lawmakers are unable to pass any temporary spending bill that would keep the government open beyond Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year and expiration date for current government spending.

"It's a strategy for failure," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told the Examiner. "A suicide note."

Senate Republicans said that, like their House counterparts, they want to find a way to stop the health care law from being fully implemented and point to polls showing growing public dissatisfaction for Obamacare. But they are split over how to stop it.

"I'm not in the shut down the government crowd," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn said. "I'm in the take over the government crowd and lets replace Obamacare."

Republicans spent Wednesday mulling over options for blocking Obamacare, he said.

"We are united in wanting to defund Obamacare," Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said. "It's how we go about trying to create the political pressure to do it."

If the House passes its temporary spending bill, which it is likely to do on Friday, Republicans expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to strip out the provision defunding the health care law before putting it up for a vote in the Democratically controlled chamber.

"The question is, what's the end game?" Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said. "What's going to happen in the House once Harry Reid has his way with the bill over here?"

Cruz said the vote on Obamacare can be swayed by public opposition to the law. Cruz pointed to evidence that the bill is forcing companies to fire workers or reduce employee hours to avoid new costs or penalties under Obamacare. In some cases, he said, the new law has driven up health insurance premiums and limited medical options for patients.

"At the end of the day, the only way this battle can be won is if there is a grassroots tsunami of the American people demanding the leadership of both parties, Republican and Democrat, step up and avert this train wreck," Cruz told the Examiner.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, authored a letter signed by 14 Senate Republicans who pledged to vote against any government funding bill that includes money for the implementation of the health care law.

He praised the House bill.

"Speaker Boehner and the House Republican leadership have done a courageous thing," Lee said. "They have done something the American people have been asking for. I hope my Senate colleagues will hear the same message that our House counterparts have heard and follow suit."

Earlier Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Boehner was dealing with "an all-out civil war within the Republican Party" over the health care law that could result in a government shut down or a default over the debt ceiling.

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Susan Ferrechio

Chief Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner