Sen. Lee on defunding ObamaCare: "We all know the government is going to get funded..."

Sen. Mike Lee took to the Sunday shows yesterday to defend his push to keep the funding of ObamaCare as an in-play political factor in the looming budget battle upon Congress’s return from the August recess. After Lee and eleven fellow Republican cosponsors’ feisty letter to Harry Reid last week, several Republicans made it perfectly clear that they are not on board with the idea, including Sen. Richard Burr calling Lee’s proposal to block a continuing resolution “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” On Sunday, however, Lee both downplayed the risk of an actual government shutdown and maintained that the federal government shouldn’t be foisting a law upon the American people that they’re very obviously not ready to implement. At about the 5-minute mark:

Look, Chris, we all know that the government is going to get funded. The only question is whether the government gets funded with Obamacare or without it? And what I’m saying is that the president has said he’s not ready to implement the law, he said that the law isn’t ready for primetime. And so, if he’s not ready, if the law is not ready, we can’t fund it. … It’s not about liberal or conservative. This is yet another instance of Washington versus everyone else. And we’ve got to stop Washington from dividing the American people. We’ve got to stop Washington from hurting the American people. … The law is bad. The law is certainly not ready to implement and we shouldn’t fund it. … The fact is that we can delay this bill, maybe we can’t repeal it right, but we can delay its funding. And if we can delay it, we can stop its consequences, at least for now. And we have to do that.

And indeed, as Stephen Hayes reports at the Weekly Standard, as his effort started to gain attention over the past couple of weeks and the media began chiming in that he was supposedly just a-hankerin’ for a hyper-partisan episode of government shutdown, support has started to wane. Senators Ayotte, Boozman, Cornyn, Wicker, and Kirk all initially agreed to sign up for what was originally intended to be the seventeen-cosponsor letter to Reid, but the five of them quietly backed off and dwindled that number down to twelve at the final tally; and the ongoing optics of it all mean that more support probably isn’t going to happen:

Sources tell The Weekly Standard that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell made clear he didn’t like Lee’s approach and the fact that media reports were suggesting Republicans were eager for a shutdown. …

Lee says he anticipated some Republican opposition to his plan but didn’t expect the intensity of the campaign to stop him. “The fact that some are pushing back as hard as they are is surprising,” he tells me. He is frustrated that some of those in leadership who are quietly thwarting his efforts haven’t come up with an alternative. When I ask him if he could describe leadership’s preferred strategy, he responds: “No. There is no plan. …”

Efforts to defund Obamacare are unlikely to succeed—at least for now. Republicans would have to have spoken with one voice for their threats to be taken seriously. Too late for that, obviously.

Jazz Shaw Jul 03, 2022 10:01 AM ET