Republicans offer a reality check on effort to defund Obamacare

Chris Moody
Political Reporter
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference in Washington, Thursday, June 13, 2013. The fight for the direction of the Republican Party will be on display Thursday at a Washington conference hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a group created by former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed. Designed to strengthen the evangelical influence in national politics, the conference gives many religious conservative activists their first look at potential 2016 presidential candidates. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

A Republican senator elected with broad support from tea party groups in 2010 said it would be “next to impossible” to strip funding from the federal health care law known as Obamacare this year, a statement that throws cold water on efforts by some conservative Republicans to defund the law.

Before members of Congress departed Washington for an extended recess earlier this month, a  group of Republicans called on conservative activists to urge lawmakers to refuse support for any government-funding bill that includes money for Obamacare. Congress must pass a spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, by Sept. 30 or the government will shut down.

On Tuesday, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said the most recent iteration of the campaign to defund Obamacare, which is being spearheaded by GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah and others, would “likely” not be successful this year.

"Even if we were to not pass the continuing resolution, you're not going to be able to defund Obamacare, absent of President Obama signing a law, which I think is highly unlikely," Johnson said, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "So I appreciate the fact that they've raised the issue. But defunding Obamacare, with President Obama in the White House and (Majority Leader) Harry Reid in the Senate, I think is next to impossible."

Johnson is not alone. Other Republicans, who, like he does, support the spirit of the effort to eradicate the health care law, have pointed out problems with the strategy.

"I'm for stopping Obamacare, but shutting down the government will not stop Obamacare," Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, said Tuesday at an event in Kentucky. McConnell has co-sponsored a bill with Cruz that would strip funding for the law from the continuing resolution, but he has not said if he will vote for a final version of the spending bill if it includes Obamacare funding.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan outlined an alternative strategy that would not involve a shutdown threat.

“Rather than sort of swinging for the fences and trying to take this entire law out with discretionary spending, I think there are more effective ways of achieving that goal. We think that we can do better by delaying this law,” Ryan said.

Even Paul, one of the leaders of the recent push, recently told reporters at an event in Arlington, Va., that delaying the law could be a possible outcome.

The approach Ryan discussed is most likely the one Republicans will embrace when they return for the fall session in September.

Yes, there will still be a vote on an amendment to strip Obamacare funding from the continuing resolution and many Republicans will vote for it. Then it will die in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Most elected Republicans know this, which is why they will likely also support the delay tactic, a strategy that polls much better than threats to shut down the government.