WASHINGTON (AP) — Implacable Republican opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has Congress once more veering closer to gridlock.
In the House, more than 50 conservatives support tacking a one-year delay in implementing the health care law onto a bill needed to prevent a partial government shutdown on Oct. 1.
Senior leaders warn the GOP could suffer significant political reverses if the party goes along with the plan and President Barack Obama and Democrats resist, as they have made clear they will, but it is strongly backed by senators with tea party ties and their influential allies outside Congress. Its leading advocate, Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia, said the proposal unifies the rank and file “around two objectives we have, keeping the government open and protecting our constituents from the harmful effects of Obamacare.”
Across the Capitol, where energy legislation is under debate, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is proposing to add a one-year delay in the requirements for individuals to purchase coverage and for businesses to provide it to their employees. Obama has already ordered the postponement for businesses.
Additionally, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is threatening to hold up passage until the Senate agrees to vote on a proposal that would require lawmakers, their aides and presidential political appointees to obtain their coverage through exchanges that would be set up under the law beginning Oct. 1. That, in turn, would require them to pay the full cost of their insurance out of pocket, denying them the contribution that the government currently makes as their employer.
Other Republicans have raised the possibility of tying an increase in the Treasury’s ability to borrow more money to a measure delaying or defunding the health care law, a possibility that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew flatly ruled out on Tuesday. Such efforts “are unacceptable. That is not a path toward something that can ultimately be signed into law,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was more cutting. “The anarchists have taken over,” the Nevada Democrat said recently, referring in less-than-friendly terms to Republicans with tea party ties. “They’ve taken over the House. Now they’re here in the Senate.”
Republicans in Congress see it differently.
“Now, I know that some of you who supported this law might be thinking, “Well, they’ll learn to like it,’ ” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said recently. “ But it’s precisely that kind of, ‘We know what’s good for you’ attitude that’s so upsetting to my constituents. It’s what got us into this mess in the first place.”
Yet no matter how often GOP leaders pledge allegiance to the cause, tea party activists are loudly dismissive, and rarely pass up a chance to challenge McConnell or House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
A recent call from the House Republican leadership merely requiring the Senate to take a vote on delaying Obamacare was quickly shot down by the restive rank and file as too weak. That quickly gave birth to the plan backed by Graves and roughly 60 other conservatives to impose a one-year delay in implementation, even though leaders fear it risks a re-run of the twin government shutdowns nearly two decades ago that did significant damage to Republicans.