Senate Democratic leaders vowed Thursday they will protect Obamacare at all costs against Republican efforts to defund the health care program during the upcoming budget debate, even if it means taking the blame for a government shutdown.
When a reporter asked, "Are you prepared to endure the public backlash in order to protect the health care law, have you thought through what that would be like?" Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., replied "yes."
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., emphasized during the briefing that "Democrats could not be clearer: We are not going to delay or defund health care reform and we're not going to play games with the debt limit."
Murray, who is secretary of the Senate Democratic Conference, has been in the Senate Democratic leadership since 2007.
Reid agreed with Murray, saying, "Obamacare will not be touched with anything they're doing."
“We're sending a strong message to the House: We will not blink,” Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said. “Don’t get it into your heads that we will. We won’t. Don’t make it part of your strategy that eventually we’ll cave. We won’t.
"We’re unified. We’re together. You’re not. So, we are going to stand together to protect the president's health care law; we're going to stand together and not negotiate one iota when it comes to the debt ceiling.”
Schumer, who is chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center, predicted House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will ultimately block efforts by conservative Republicans to defund or achieve anything else that can be claimed as a victory on Obamacare due to public opposition to a government shutdown or debt default.
The Democrats' remarks were prompted by Boehner's announcement earlier Thursday that House Republicans will approve a continuing resolution to fund the federal government, but not Obamacare.
It's an odd messaging moment from Senate Democrats, who appear to be framing the issue as a fight over Obamacare rather than keeping the government open, which echoes what Obamacare defunding advocates like Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have been saying for months.
“For months, Americans have been telling Washington to fund the operations of government, but also protect them from the harmful effects and unfair implementation of Obamacare," Lee said of Boehner's decision to pass a continuing resolution that defunds the health care law.
"We encourage the House to approve this legislation quickly, and I applaud Speaker Boehner for his leadership on this proposal. Then it will be up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to pass this measure to fund government and defund Obamacare,” Lee said.