Defunding of Health Law Backed by 80 House Republicans

Eighty Republicans in the U.S. House have signed a letter urging their leadership to support efforts to withhold money to implement President Barack Obama’s health-care law from must-pass legislation to keep the government running after Oct. 1.

That’s short of the “majority of the majority,” which has become a benchmark for consensus by the 233 Republicans who control the chamber.

“We urge you to affirmatively defund the implementation and enforcement of ObamaCare in any relevant appropriations bills brought to the House floor” in the current Congress “including any continuing appropriations bill,” said the letter to Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

The House has voted 40 times to repeal or revise the health-care law, which the letter said “remains broadly unpopular across America,” according to the the letter circulated by freshman North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows.

The Obama administration in the past has threatened to veto legislation that would withhold money for carrying out the health-care law, raising the specter of a showdown between the Republican-run House and Obama over legislation to finance the government after the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

‘Dumbest Idea’

Republicans are divided on the political wisdom of threatening a government shutdown over the issue. North Carolina’s Republican Senator Richard Burr called it “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.”

Cantor suggested in an Aug. 9 interview with the National Review Online that such a strategy wasn’t realistic.

“In order to avoid a government shutdown, we need 60 votes in the Senate and 218 votes in the House to pass a continuing resolution,” he said, referring to short-term legislation to fund the government.

“To get 60 votes in the Senate, you need at least 14 Democrats to join Republicans and pass a CR that defunds Obamacare,” he said. “Right now, I am not aware of a single Democrat in the Senate who would join us.”

Two freshmen Republican senators, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas, are championing the idea of stopping funding for the health-care law through the appropriations process. This week, Pat Roberts of Kansas became the 14th Senate Republican to sign a letter being circulated by Lee that’s similar to the one by Meadows, said Lee’s spokesman Brian Phillips.

Radio Ads

The Senate Conservatives Fund began airing radio ads this week to pressure Burr and South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to drop their opposition to using appropriations to squelch funding for the health law. The political action group announced it was airing airing radio spots to tell voters that Republican senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Thad Cochran of Mississippi have refused “join the fight” to defund the health-care law.

In an e-mail, the press office for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, citing a news report about a Republican-commissioned poll, said 71 percent of voters “overwhelmingly oppose this foolish, dangerous idea” to shut down the government to stop implementation of the health law.

Among Republicans surveyed, 53 percent opposed to the idea of “shutting down the government as a way to defund the president’s health-care law,” according to the Washington Examiner.

Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action for America, which is promoting the effort to stop the health law funding, disputed the poll’s methodology. Holler, in a statement, said the question misrepresented the strategy “which has always been to actively defund Obamacare, not shut down the government.”

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rowley in Washington at jarowley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo5@bloomberg.net

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