Will Republicans attempt to defund Obamacare at the risk of shutting down the government when Democrats balk? The question has roiled the GOP and political pundits in recent weeks, but the people perhaps most interested in the answer have names such as “Begich,” “Pryor,” and “Hagan.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, gave a glimpse of the political logic behind the argument — mounted most vehemently by Lee, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., — that Republicans should attempt the defunding.
“I want two votes: one to fund government, and one to fund everything related to Obamacare,” Lee told Sean Hannity during a radio debate with Karl Rove on the merits of using the continuing resolution to defund the health care law. “The American people deserve to have those things separately considered.”
Such a two-part process would force vulnerable Democrats such as Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska., Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., to cast a damaging vote in support of Obamacare just as they begin ramping up their efforts to convince constituents who voted for Mitt Romney that they are not a rubber-stamp for President Obama’s agenda.
So, is that the real point of starting this fight about defunding Obamacare, forcing red-state Democrats to vote for the law one last time heading into the election cycle? “The whole effort is not about red-state Dems,” Lee communications director Brian Phillips told the Washington Examiner.
“That is a minimum political goal, but that is not the [ultimate] goal of what we’re doing,” Phillips continued. “We have legitimate leverage on the funding bill to defund Obamacare. It puts red-state Dems who are in cycle in a position of making a tough vote in support of or opposition to Obamacare while they are in cycle. So, obviously — that’s the bottom line, is that the point of pushing this is that there’s no hiding from declaring their support or opposition to Obamacare. We’re going to have one final vote before it gets implemented and the constituents of the various states will know where their member stands on supporting or opposing Obamacare.”
With that campaign goal in mind, Lee’s willingness to “castigate” Republicans who disagree with him on this tactic, as Karl Rove put it, makes more sense: if Republicans vote to fund the law, that let’s the red-state Democrats off the hook.