GOP Groups, Leaders Push McConnell To Back ACA Defunding Plan

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Conservative groups and several Republican lawmakers are pressuring Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to support a plan to defund the Affordable Care Act by threating a government shutdown, The Hill's "Ballot Box" reports (Neff, "Ballot Box," The Hill, 8/16).

Background

Under the plan -- spearheaded by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) -- Republicans are seeking to block any government funding resolution that includes money for further implementation of the ACA. A similar plan in the House already has gained the support of 66 members.

However, several members of the GOP leadership -- including McConnell -- have spoken out against the plan. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has warned that the plan poses political dangers that could threaten the GOP's House majority. Several GOP governors also have criticized the plan, warning that a government shutdown would be disastrous for Republicans, particularly if the party is seen as halting government activity (California Healthline, 8/13).

Last week, McConnell said, "I'm all for stopping Obamacare, but shutting down the government will not stop Obamacare." He cited a recent Congressional Research Service report that said implementation of the law would continue in the event of a government shutdown (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/13).

Conservative Groups Launch Efforts To Pressure McConnell, Defund ACA

The conservative group Senate Conservatives Fund on Friday launched an email campaign to raise funds for a statewide advertising initiative in Kentucky aiming "to expose McConnell's record on [defunding the ACA] and to persuade him to lead the fight," National Journal reports.

In the email, SCF said it wants McConnell to "feel the heat" for "waving the white flag" on the issue. SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins said, "This issue is a major test for Mitch McConnell, and he has failed conservatives time and time again ... if he fails them again on this issue -- the most important issue -- then I think a lot of people in Kentucky and across the country are going to want an alternative" (Goldmacher, National Journal, 8/16).

Meanwhile, another conservative group called Heritage Action is planning events in nine cities before September to garner grassroots support for Lee's plan (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/17).

GOP Lawmakers Target McConnell, Urge Senate To Defund ACA

McConnell also is facing pressure from several GOP lawmakers, who argue that there is growing grassroots support for the potential government shutdown, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.

For example, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said that among his constituents, "I have heard, 'This law is not ready for primetime, and we need to do anything we can to stop it.'" Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) -- who opposes the plan -- also acknowledged that many of his constituents are talking "quite a bit about having a shutdown over Obamacare" (Wasson/Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/16).

Separately, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) called on the Senate to delay the law's individual mandate, saying that it "would only be fair" considering the delay of certain ACA provisions. "It's time for your Senate to pass, and for you to sign, the House's bipartisan delay of the individual mandate," she said during a GOP weekly address (Yager, "Hill Tube," The Hill, 8/17).

Nonetheless, several GOP lawmakers still are refusing to support the plan, with Reps. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and Steve Womack (R-Ark.) telling constituents that they will not support any effort to shut down the government ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/16).

GOP Presidential Contenders Also Divided Over Defunding Plan

GOP leadership also is facing pressure to defund the law from at least seven Republican lawmakers who are considering a presidential run in 2016, according to a Hill survey. Those lawmakers include:

  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas);
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.);
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.);
  • Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.);
  • Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.); and
  • Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).

Meanwhile, other potential candidates favor a more traditional route to overturning the law, such as through a repeal or delay. Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) said, "I am totally opposed to Obamacare, but the fact is, it passed both houses and was signed into law and the president was re-elected ... I think [this strategy] is wrong governmentally, wrong philosophically and bad politically. People will see it for what is -- a shakedown tactic." He said the law should be opposed "by the proper procedure."

Other GOP lawmakers who have shied away from the defunding plan included Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/17).

Defunding Plan Splitting GOP

The divide among Republicans who support or oppose the defunding plan has left GOP lawmakers "battling each other instead of the Democrats," National Journal reports. According to the Journal, successfully defunding the ACA is an "almost unimaginable outcome," but supporters of the plan -- including the SCF-- accuse GOP members who do not support the initiative of having a "defeatist attitude."

Sens. Cruz, Lee and Rubio have only acquired 13 guaranteed signatures for the plan in the Senate, and supporters are trying to drum up grassroots support to pressure GOP leadership into supporting the plan. Meanwhile, Democrats are "licking their political chops" over the potential ramifications if the plan backfires and -- according to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) -- "boomerang[s] on [the GOP] politically" (Goldmacher, National Journal, 8/18).


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