Republicans keep squabbling over Obamacare

The party is split over a push by tea party senators to shut down the government in order to defund the law

By Jillian Rayfield
Published July 31, 2013 4:19PM (EDT)

Another Republican senator has called out party colleagues who are threatening to shut down the federal government in order to defund Obamacare, in this case saying that shutting down the government just won't work. "There's not a legislative method that we have that is capable of defunding it short of 67 votes in the U.S. Senate, short of two-thirds [of the] votes in the U.S. House," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

He added: "I want to defund this bill, but I also want a way to do it that kills it."

Coburn is the latest senator to dismiss the plan by a group of tea party Republicans to defund the Affordable Care Act. The plan involves blocking a continuing resolution to fund the federal government past September 30, if the CR includes funding for the Affordable Care Act.

“I think it’s a silly effort,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said earlier this week on MSNBC. “What people are really saying who are behind that effort is we don’t have the courage to roll up our sleeves and deal with real deficit reduction and spending decisions."

"I think it's the dumbest idea I've ever heard of," said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. "Listen, as long as Barack Obama is president, the Affordable Care Act is going to be law."

Coburn cited a report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, which found that, in fact, shutting down the government won't even completely strip funding from Obamacare. "It appears that substantial ACA implementation might continue during a lapse in annual appropriations that resulted in a temporary government shutdown for two reasons," the report says. "The first is that the federal government will be able to rely on sources of funding other than annual discretionary appropriations to support implementation activities...The second that agencies may continue to perform certain types of activities that fall under exceptions to the Antideficiency Act, which generally prohibits continued operations in the absence of appropriations."

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has been taunting his colleagues over their unwillingness to shut down the government over the law. “There is a powerful, defeatist approach among Republicans in Washington,” Cruz said of the effort, speaking with conservative radio radio host Dana Loesch. “I think they’re beaten down and they’re convinced that we can’t give a fight, and they’re terrified.”

"Defund it, or own it," said another leader of the push, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. "If you fund it, you're for it."

The Huffington Post reports:

The movement has the support of at least 15 Republican senators: Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ted Cruz (Texas), John Cornyn (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.), James Inhofe (Okla.), David Vitter (La.), James Risch (Idaho), Roger Wicker (Miss.), Jeff Chiesa (N.J.), John Thune (S.D.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), and Chuck Grassley (Iowa). More than 60 House Republicans signed a letter Wednesday to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) urging GOP leadership to take the same stand.

Boehner, for his part, didn't rule out going through with a shutdown. "We've made no decisions about how we're going to proceed with the [continuing resolution]," he told reporters on Wednesday. "We're going to have ample time to deal with the fiscal issues that are staring us in the face, and I'm confident that beginning in the fall -- it may be a messy process, but I suspect we'll find a way to get there."

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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Obamacare Republicans Senate Ted Cruz Tom Coburn