GOP: Fight Not Over to End Obamacare

Wednesday, 16 Oct 2013 09:10 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Despite approving a bipartisan Senate plan to end the federal shutdown and extend the nation's debt ceiling, Republicans vowed on Wednesday to continue the fight to defund Obamacare.

“We fought the good fight,” House Speaker John Boehner told WLW-AM in his home state of Ohio before the House vote late on Wednesday. “We just didn’t win.

"We did everything we could to get them to the table," Boehner told the Cincinnati-based radio station. "We just couldn't. They just kept saying, 'no, no, no.'"

But the battle to stop Obamacare is not over, he said later.

"Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president's healthcare law will continue," Boehner said in a statement. "We will rely on aggressive oversight that highlights the law's massive flaws and smart, targeted strikes that split the legislative coalition the president has relied upon to force his healthcare law on the American people.”

And it is that losing strategy, backed by the party's tea party wing, that has damaged Republicans in the long run, observers say.

“Republicans in the House, with a little help from Ted Cruz, got all excited with this stupid wing strategy that has now done a lot of damage to our brand,” said Mike Murphy, a Republican consultant who has advised several presidential campaigns. "We've taken a big blow."

Murphy was referring to the Texas Republican senator, who spoke for 21 hours and 19 minutes recently against Obamacare on the Senate floor last month.

For his part, Cruz spoke against the bipartisan compromise on Wednesday before voting against it.

"This is a terrible deal today, but it is a terrible deal for the American people," the freshman senator said.

Under the deal reached by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Majority Leader Harry Reid, the 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government would end, keeping it open through Jan. 15.

In addition, the nation's borrowing authority would be extended through Feb. 7 — and income verification would be required for those seeking government subsidies under Obamacare.

The Senate voted 81-18 to pass the legislation, which was sent to the House for a vote later Wednesday night.

Besides Cruz, those Republicans voting against the measure included his fellow Texan, Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, as well as Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and David Vitter of Louisiana.

President Barack Obama has said he would sign the legislation.

"Everybody lost here," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, told CNN before casting his vote for the legislation. "This is the best Mitch could do because we overplayed our hand, and we were left with a pair of two's."

After the vote, Reid said: "This crisis was historic. Let's be honest: Pain was inflicted on our nation for no reason. We cannot let this happen again."

Just before the House took its vote, Obama said at the White House: "I want to thank the leaders of both parties for getting us to this point. Once this agreement arrives on my desk, I will sign it immediately.

"We’ve got to get out of this habit of governing by crisis," he said.

But reactions were mixed on the legislation from Republicans in both congressional houses. Some told Newsmax that they would support it to get the government back operating again, while others said that they would stand against it because of its support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"This responsible solution ensures that the government re-opens and that we do not default on our debt in order to restore stability to our economy and provide economic security for our communities," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. "People are tired of Washington’s partisan bickering and, while we have forged a responsible compromise, there is still much work to be done.”

But her Senate colleague, Marco Rubio, decried the bill.

“I cannot support this deal because it postpones any significant action on pro-growth and spending reforms and does nothing to provide working-class Americans even one shred of relief from Obamacare’s harmful effects," he said.

“Until we tackle the real threats to the American Dream, we are going to continue finding ourselves in these kinds of messes," Rubio added. "America is better than this, and the American people deserve better.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said he voted against the legislation because it had no spending controls.

"Now is not the time to pivot to the next issue," he said. "We’ll hit a new debt limit next year. We must stay focused on the central issue. With falling wages, $1 trillion in welfare spending, and a massive health law that no one can afford, now is the time to pursue a national reform agenda that serves working Americans.

"Struggling workers deserve a sound financial future — one with better wages, better incomes, and a better plan than borrowing money to mail more government checks.”

Rep. Paul Broun, a Georgia physician, told Newsmax that Obamacare "is going to eventually lead to the economic collapse of America.

"It is going to hurt every single American, and it is already hurting job-creation today," he said. "It's harming our economy. It is going to eventually lead to an economic meltdown in this country. It must be stopped."

Heritage Action for America , the lobbying arm of the Heritage Foundation, also attacked the McConnell-Reid compromise.

"Despite some language addressing the Obama administration’s willful disregard for Obamacare’s income-verification requirements, the proposed plan will do absolutely nothing to help Americans who are negatively impacted by Obamacare," the organization said.

"Premiums will continue to skyrocket, cancellation notices will still arrive in the mail, employers will continue reducing hours and bureaucrats will continue reaching deeper and deeper into our healthcare decisions."

Michael Needham, the group's CEO, told Fox News that the Republican Party could only be successful in defeating Obamacare by supporting tea party-backed candidates who are running for Congress next year and for the White House in 2016.

“Everybody understands that we’re not going to be able to repeal this law until 2017 and that we have to win the Senate and we have to win the White House,” Needham told Fox.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans charged from the outset that House efforts to tie the government funding and debt measures to Obamacare was flawed, especially since Obama and Senate Democrats rejected the notion outright.

Arizona Sen. John McCain called the move a “fool’s errand,” yet House members remained steadfast — even as polls showed 7 in 10 Americans disapproved of it and as Republicans took on greater blame for bringing the government closer to default.

But Obama held another advantage, observers say: He is not facing re-election.

"That was one of the fundamental miscalculations of the whole thing," said Terry Holt, a Republican consultant and a former Boehner aide.

As such, President Obama could hold his position, amid House Republican hopes that he would bend, as in previous fiscal battles.

This time was different, observers say, and Republicans lost on every major point — even as they changed their position from completing defunding Obamacare to delaying the healthcare law's individual mandate for a year to postponing the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices that helps pay for the law.

But, with each step, Republicans jeopardized their chances to regain control of the Senate next year, observers say.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats to win the 100-member chamber. Democrats are defending seven in states that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney won in the 2012 election.

“For now, the default debate, coupled with the shutdown of the government, has been to the detriment of Senate Republicans,” said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report in Washington, which tracks races.

The Republicans’ “path to the majority was narrow before the shutdown and has gotten considerably more narrow since,” she said.

Further, “The big question now is how tea party voters react to the debt-ceiling deal,” Duffy added. “If their reaction is very negative, it might provide some momentum to tea party candidates challenging GOP incumbents in primaries, depending, of course, on how an incumbent votes on the deal.”

Graham has long acknowledged that the House GOP strategy failed.

“We really did go too far,” Graham said. “We screwed up. Their response is making things worse, not better.”

Looking ahead to the January budget talks, senators are hoping that the Obamacare debacle proved to be a learning experience for House Republicans.

“If they’re saying the defunding issue is going to come up again in three months, then they’ve learned nothing from this,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican. “We’ve been asking from the beginning: 'What’s the end game? How do you achieve what you’re purporting to achieve on defunding Obamacare?' And I never got an answer to that — and I don’t think there still is an answer to that.

"If we learned nothing else from this exercise, I hope we learned that we shouldn’t get behind a strategy that cannot succeed.”

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.


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