Cantor Says GOP Efforts To Oppose ACA Will Continue After Recess
In a recent memo to House Republicans, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wrote that the GOP will continue "at full throttle" in their efforts to oppose the Obama administration's agenda, including the Affordable Care Act, when Congress resumes in September, the Los Angeles Times' "Politics Now" reports.
In the memo, Cantor noted that House committees have held more than two dozen hearings on the implementation of the ACA, which has led to bills being passed in the House targeting the law. Cantor vowed that Republicans would continue to "conduc[t] effective oversight" of the administration's agenda, including the ACA, into the fall.
Emily Bittner -- spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- criticized House Republicans for their continued efforts against the administration's plans. She said the GOP have been "holding useless hearings, voting on repeal bills that won't pass and increasing partisanship and gridlock to record levels."
GOP Leaders Must Address Party Divide Over Defunding
Meanwhile, when lawmakers return from recess next month, Republican leaders must address the party divide over whether to move forward with a plan to defund the ACA, "Politics Now" reports (Memoli, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 8/21).
Under the plan -- spearheaded by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) -- Republicans aim to block any government funding resolution that includes money for the ACA.
Republicans will have several opportunities to enact their plan. When lawmakers return from August recess on Sept. 9, they face an Oct. 1 deadline to pass a stopgap measure to keep the federal government funded. After that, they face a deadline in late October or early November to raise the federal debt ceiling or risk defaulting on the country's debt.
However, many Republicans in the House and Senate oppose the strategy, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). They say it is a reckless move that could result in voters holding the GOP responsible for the government shutting down (California Healthline, 8/23).
Cruz Says Grassroots 'Tsunami' Needed to Pass Plan
In related news, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Sunday acknowledged that the GOP does not have enough votes to pass a plan to defund the ACA, Politico's "Politico Now" reports (Epstein, "Politico Now," Politico, 8/25).
In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Cruz said that it is going to take a "tsunami" of grassroots pressure to pass the plan, adding, "and I am going to do everything I can to encourage that tsunami."
Cruz said, "Now is the single best time to stop Obamacare." He added, "If it doesn't happen now, it's never going to happen" (Berman, "Hill Tube," The Hill, 8/25). He called on Republicans to "stand up and win the argument," noting, "We have to stand up and say no."
In addition, Cruz offered three health care reforms as an alternative to the ACA:
- Allow consumers to purchase plans across state lines;
- Delink health coverage from employment; and
- Expand health savings accounts (Howell, Washington Times, 8/25).
McMorris Rodgers Calls ACA Defunding Plan 'Unrealistic'
Meanwhile, House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) on Thursday said the GOP plan to defund the ACA is unrealistic, The Hill's "On The Money" reports.
During an event in Spokane, Wash., McMorris Rodgers said, "To get the entire bill repealed, or defunded, is probably not realistic." She added "But I do think there are provisions in the law that we can get delayed, or provisions in the law we can get defunded."
McMorris Rodgers said the GOP would be better served by trying to pass laws that slowly chip away at the ACA over time. According to "On The Money," this plan echoes a party strategy supported by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) (Becker, "On The Money," The Hill, 8/23).
During a conference call with GOP lawmakers last week, Boehner urged those on the call to follow the strategy he laid out earlier this summer that calls for "holding votes that chip away at the legislative coalition the president is using to force Obamacare on the nation."
Boehner also discussed a budget strategy that did not include the plan to defund the ACA. He said, "When we return, our intent is to move quickly on a short-term continuing resolution that keeps the government running and maintains current sequester spending levels." He added, "Our message will remain clear: Until the president agrees to better cuts and reforms that help grow the economy and put us on path to a balanced budget, his sequester -- the sequester he himself proposed, insisted on and signed into law -- stays in place" (California Healthline, 8/23).
Conservative Groups Criticize Boehner's Strategy
However, Boehner's plan to slowly "chip away" at the law has left some conservative groups -- such as Heritage Action and Club for Growth -- dismayed, The Hill's "On The Money" reports.
Dan Holler -- a spokesperson for Heritage Action, which is the advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation -- called the plan a "missed opportunity," noting that Boehner's approach is "obviously an effort to tamp down enthusiasm over the defund push."
Holler also appeared skeptical that a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government funded would be the right battleground for the GOP to make demands over the ACA. He said, "They're not taking that off the table yet, at least explicitly, but everyone understands that a two-month CR isn't designed to have a fight over Obamacare."
Barney Keller -- spokesperson for the Club for Growth -- said, "Keeping current law does not sound like progress on stopping Obamacare" (Schroeder, "On The Money," The Hill, 8/23).
GOP Rift Could Continue in 2014 Elections
Meanwhile, some Republicans have raised concerns that the ongoing GOP divide over the plan to defund the ACA could spill over into the 2014 elections, The Hill's "Ballot Box" reports.
For example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) already is facing criticism from his primary opponent for refusing to take a stand on the issue. Similarly, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) is feeling political pressure to support the defunding plan from the Club for Growth, which is supporting his opponent in the primaries.
Recent polls have shown mixed results about how the issue will affect voters in the upcoming elections. Poll results from the Winston Group show that more than half of Republicans oppose shutting down the government in order to defund the ACA. However, Heritage Action released its own polling showing that voters support a temporary shutdown in order to delay or defund the law (Joseph, "Ballot Box," The Hill, 8/25).
Pence Touts ACA Alternative
Pence said, "The Obama administration is creating confusion in the marketplace, from its suspension of the cap on out-of-pocket expenses, to providing subsidies without verifying income, to a one-year suspension of the employer mandate, this health care law is weighing down our economy."
Pence said lawmakers should instead look to "our nation's state capitals" for alternative reforms, such as the Healthy Indiana Plan, which relies on health savings accounts that Republicans have supported at the federal level in the past.
Pence said, "Giving people in Indiana more freedom and more responsibility over their health care has improved outcomes and now 95% our plan's enrollees are satisfied with their coverage." He added, "This is a perfect example of the truth that by letting freedom and personal responsibility work together, you reduce the need for government" (Berman, "Hill Tube," The Hill, 8/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.