(Bloomberg) — For the first time, Republicans have an opportunity to land a bill on President Barack Obama’s desk that achieves two of their most sought after goals: rolling back major parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and defunding Planned Parenthood.
But two of the party’s most staunchly conservative presidential hopefuls in the Senate are threatening to scuttle the legislation, H.R. 3762, which passed the House on Friday with 239 Republican votes.
“This simply isn’t good enough,” Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida said in a joint statement. The bill would repeal major pieces of PPACA, including the individual mandate, employer mandate and taxes on medical device sales and high-cost “Cadillac” insurance plans.
In their statement, co-signed by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Cruz and Rubio said they can’t support the House bill because it doesn’t go far enough. “Each of us campaigned on a promise to fully repeal Obamacare,” they said.
The purist manifesto is a revealing indication of how far unexpected developments in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination have pushed candidates to the right. Outsider contenders Donald Trump and Ben Carson, both promising to shatter the Washington status quo, are leading in national polls.
Meanwhile Rubio and Cruz are grappling with Jeb Bush for the lower three positions in the top five. A recent ABC/Washington Post poll found each of them to be more than than 20 points behind Trump. Cruz has forged an identity as an insurgent within the clubby Senate. For Rubio, who is seen as a more establishment-friendly candidate though he won office with Tea Party backing, the stance is a reminder of his hard-right roots.
Apparently not wanting to leave any room on their right flanks as they battle for conservative votes, Rubio and Cruz are spurning a parliamentary gambit that gives conservatives their best chance to force a showdown with Obama over PPACA and Planned Parenthood.