McConnell Mum on Defunding Obamacare in Budget Battle

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will not yet say whether he backs efforts by conservatives to defund Obamacare in the next vote to extend the federal budget through a continuing resolution (CR).

In an email exchange with Breitbart News, McConnell’s Senate communications director, Don Stewart, said that the Minority Leader has supported efforts to defund Obamacare in the past and did not commit one way or the other on defunding the Affordable Car Act using the upcoming CR fight in September.

“As you know, funding bills originate in the House,” Stewart said. “And while I can’t predict what the final version the House passes will look like, I can say with certainty that the Leader will work to get a vote on the Cruz bill to defund Obamacare just has he has done on past bills." 

"The Leader continues to believe that we should defund, dismantle and fully repeal Obamacare," he continued. "The Republican Conference is united in that position and he is a co-sponsor of bills to do all three.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), along with allies like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Rand Paul (R-KY), is trying traget Obamacare in the next CR, which funds the entire government, in the next two months. The CR will be voted on by the end of September, and conservatives are trying to remove funding for Obamacare from the resolution. The move would force Senate Democrat leadership and President Barack Obama to make a decision: shut the government down or agree to defund the healthcare regulation bill.

Over the course of several emails over the past few days with Breitbart News, Stewart and other McConnell aides argued the Minority Leader opposes Obamacare but would not answer when asked multiple times whether he would promise to vote against any government funding mechanism that includes paying for Obamacare’s implementation.

Lee has circulated a letter to Senate Republicans pushing for the defunding of Obamacare in the next CR, which McConnell has not signed. Chris Chocola, the president of the GOP-primary powerhouse Club for Growth, has called on McConnell to sign the Lee letter. 

“If Senator McConnell is committed to defunding ObamaCare, then he should sign the Lee letter and promise not to support a continuing resolution or any budget that funds ObamaCare,” Chocola said in a statement. “We are disappointed by rumors that Senate Republican leadership is pressuring Senators not to sign Lee’s letter or to remove their names – they should instead encourage others to sign on.”

In total, 12 Senate Republicans signed Lee’s letter: Sens. Lee, Rubio, Cruz, and Paul, along with Jim Risch (R-ID), Mike Enzi (R-WY), James Inhofe (R-OK), David Vitter (R-LA), John Thune (R-SD), Jeff Chiesa (R-NJ), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Deb Fischer (R-NE). 

Five senators who originally signed the letter have since removed their names from it: Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), John Boozman (R-AR), Roger Wicker (R-MI), and Mark Kirk (R-IL).

The letter argues that with Obamacare’s government-run health care exchanges opening in October while the individual mandate that would require every American have health insurance through their employer or the government will take hold in January, this is Republicans' last chance to take down the unpopular law.

Conservative talker Mark Levin said on his radio program on Thursday night that it appears McConnell is working to try to keep Obamacare the law of the land by refusing to support the effort.

“There is a way forward,” Levin said. “Mike Lee and Ted Cruz and the others are exactly right. This is the moment to draw the line in the sand and mean it.”

“But I have some bad news for you,” Levin added. “Mitch McConnell. This guy Richard Burr from North Carolina. Others. They’re already cowering, they’re already buckling. They’re already attacking the constitutionalists, the conservatives, in the Senate that are trying to save the nation and all of you from Obamacare.”

Levin added that “the only thing that stands in the way” of fighting against Obamacare and “defunding it outright or at least begin[ning] to hugely defund it” is “Republican leadership and moderate phony conservative Republicans in the Senate and the House.”

“If Obamacare remains the law of the land, you can thank the Republican leadership in the Senate and the House if they don’t quickly throw in with Mike Lee and Ted Cruz and fight the fight and win the day and win the century,” Levin continued.

GOP political consultant Karl Rove has defended McConnell and other Republicans hesitant to risk shutting down the government over Obamacare. “You know what? I'm suspect about it because it gives the president the bully pulpit and a gigantic stick on which to beat us, 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,'” Rove said on Fox News Channel’s Hannity on Thursday night.

Host Sean Hannity followed up with Rove and said he thinks “this is our last chance to get rid of it [Obamacare]. If we – once this is law, I don't think we can get rid of it.”

Rove responded by arguing Obamacare would somehow kill itself if Republicans keep pushing talking points against it. “Look, I think it will collapse in and of itself if we keep the pressure on,” Rove said. 

On his Facebook page on Friday morning, Levin attacked Rove’s comments: “Karl Rove is all over the Fox News Channel supporting funding for Obamacare,” Levin wrote. “I've no doubt he's working with GOP leaders in Congress.”


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