WASHINGTON — Rep. Doug Lamborn nodded his head when a reporter asked if he had a back-up plan in the event the conservative push to de-fund Obamacare fails this legislative session. While the Colorado Springs lawmaker vowed he would not “give away my strategy,” he did just that moments after he voted Friday to de-fund the President’s signature health-insurance law.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter does not care for Republicans’ gambit. “It’s a political game that’s being played,” the Golden Democrat said with a scowl.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was more dismissive. At his weekly press conference Tuesday, the Nevada Democrat called Republicans’ effort “senseless.”
Yet without being explicit, conservatives say even if the individual mandate begins January 1 as envisioned, their push to delay Obamacare might reap political and policy gains.
Nearly three and a half years after it was signed into law, the Affordable Care Act – better known as Obamacare — continues to face widespread resistance. Earlier this month, the authors of a Pew research poll concluded that “public views of the 2010 health care law are as negative as ever.”
Democrats have threatened to reject Republican legislation that would keep the government running but de-fund Obamacare. The tug-of-war has political analysts talking about the possibility of a government shutdown, something both parties say they want to avoid.
Recent surveys suggest that the public is divided on the question.
A survey conducted pollsters Peter Hart and Bill McInturff conducted this month found that 59 percent of the public opposes the effort to defund Obamacare if the government would be shut down as a result.
Another survey conducted September 14 and 15 by Rasmussen Reports found that a slim majority – 51 percent – said they would favor “a partial government shutdown until Democrats and Republicans agree on what spending for the health care law to cut.”
Even so, Republican lawmakers refer to possible gains they believe are overlooked in the latest political drama engulfing Washington.
Lamborn suggested one possible gain: repealing the tax on medical devices. As part of the Affordable Care Act, an excise tax of 2.3 percent is levied on the gross sales of medical devices.
The fee took effect January 1, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sponsored an amendment to undo it. Although the underlying bill failed, Hatch’s amendment passed 79 to 20 in March. Both Colorado senators, Democrats Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, cast yea votes.
Monday, Republican senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina said the upper chamber should consider repealing the medical devices tax as part of a deal that would fund the federal government beyond Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Hatch struck a note of defiant optimism about the amendment Tuesday. Although a Hatch aide said the senator is committed to defund Obamacare, the Utah Republican was more candid in an interview at the Capitol.
“We have good support … and we’re picking up support,” Hatch said.
“We have very brilliant companies that are right on the cusp (of turning a profit) and this tax puts them over the cusp,” Hatch added. “It’s one of the stupidest, dumbass tax[es] Democrats have come up [with].”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin did not rule out attaching Hatch’s amendment to a deal that would keep the federal government’s lights on after next week.
“That’s one I would consider,” Durbin said, pausing for a moment to add that his support is conditional on Hatch finding funding budgetary offsets for the proposal.
McCain acknowledged the odds the amendment will be attached to a budget deal are “slim.” Yet he suggested a Democrat rather than a Republican would be the villain if it failed.
“Harry Reid won’t allow [it],” he said, referring to the Senate Majority Leader.