Sen. Mike Lee mocked former GOP powerhouse Karl Rove on Wednesday, calling his plea to Republicans not to defund Obamacare "dead wrong," and sarcastically asking, "Who is Karl Rove?"
"The fact is Rove is signaling for us to retreat. As if he runs the party, As if we're somehow accountable to him," Lee, a Utah Republican, told Dom Giordano, guest host of "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
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"Who is Karl Rove, anyway, to tell us not to do this? Why should we listen to him? He's been wrong before. He's wrong on this one. We shouldn't be listening to him.
"What we need to listen to are the cries that come from the American people across this country who say do not enable this president to take over our nation's healthcare system through Obamacare."
Lee, who is on the Energy and Natural Resources, Foreign Relations, and Joint Economic Committees, is spearheading an effort to reject any federal budget that funds Obamacare in 2014.
Rove — former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush and founder of the political action group American Crossroads — last week said he strongly opposed the campaign because it will ultimately hurt the GOP.
"It gives the president the bully pulpit and a gigantic stick on which to beat us," Rove told Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
"Because all he has to do is say, 'Look, this law was passed, it's on the books. I'm going to veto your continuing resolution that doesn't fund Obamacare, and it's on you for shutting down the government."
But Lee told Giordano Rove is "dead wrong" and misleading people about the effect defunding would have on the GOP.
"I don't know why Karl Rove keeps saying that. It isn't true. If he thinks that's true, he's mistaken and he's leading other people astray," he said.
"If we want to be relevant as a party, if we want in any way, shape or form to live up to the mandate we were given, when a whole big wave of us were swept into power in 2010 — specifically to stop Obamacare — then we had better not vote to fund it."
Lee suggested Rove’s thinking flies in the face of Republican Party principles.
"I'm tired of Karl Rove going around singing doom and gloom about what happens to the Republican Party if we, heaven forbid, stand by our principles," Lee said.
"We've got to stand by our principles here, we've got to stop Obamacare's funding and if we don't, I fear what happens not just to the Republican Party. I fear what happens to the entire country. This Obamacare law is bad."
Rove has said he believes Obamacare will eventually collapse by itself, but Lee said it could be disastrous to wait that long.
"That's like saying we'll wait until the unicorns arrive and everything will be OK. Look the fact is once Obamacare kicks in, that's a new entitlement. It's a massive, new entitlement program," he said.
"There are three things in this life that are certain: death, taxes and entitlements. Once an entitlement program kicks in America, it does not go away."
Lee called his defunding drive the final, last-ditch chance to stop Obamacare.
"We thought the Supreme Court would strike it down – that didn't happen … We thought we'd elect a Republican president who would stop the law, that didn't happen,” Lee said.
“This is our last chance. This is our last stop on the Obamacare expressway before the law kicks in on January 1."
Lee urged those against Obamacare to sign a petition online at www.dontfundit.com.
"That indicates that you want your senators and you want your representative to vote against funding for Obamacare," he said.
The clock is ticking, Lee added.
"Sometime between [now] and 62 days from now we'll have to pass another spending bill in order to keep the government functioning," he said.
"I'd be willing to vote for a spending bill that includes funding for every other program in government, even the programs that I don't like —and that includes a lot — but I'm not voting to fund Obamacare."
But just whether Lee’s plan ultimately has teeth is questionable.
Earlier this month, New Jersey Congressman Scott Garrett revealed to Newsmax TV that Republican lawmakers have abandoned plans to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act by defunding it
"Republican leadership in the House does not see that as a strategy," Garrett said.
"The idea is if you say you're not going to put x number of millions or billions of dollars in this bill or that bill, then what happens? The president will say I'm going to veto the bill in which case the funding for all of those programs — or potentially the entire government — runs out. Then you come to the proverbial threat of a shutdown."
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