Three U.S. legislators from Tennessee said they want to keep the government open but want to either delay the individual mandate in the new health care law or not fund it.
The federal fiscal year ends at midnight Monday, and the Affordable Care Act takes effect Tuesday. Critics call the controversial health care law “Obamacare,” and it’s at the heart of the federal fiscal feud.
House Republicans have proposed delaying the law’s individual mandate for one year, repealing a medical device tax that would help pay for the law, and keeping the government open. But Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama have rejected attempts to tie the government spending measure to attempts to change the health care law.
U.S. senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both Republicans from Tennessee, and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican representative whose district includes Oak Ridge, have all issued statements supporting the House proposal.
“To avoid a government shutdown, the Senate should promptly agree with this eminently reasonable proposal by the House,” said Alexander, the senior Republican on the Senate health committee. “Seventy nine senators have previously voted to repeal the onerous medical device tax, including 34 Democratic senators. And the President himself has already delayed the employer mandate and at least seven other provisions of the new health care law, and hasn’t even finished writing the regulations, making it clear that Obamacare could not possibly be implemented on Oct. 1 as scheduled.”
Corker said he voted to proceed with a debate on the House-passed bill to fund the government without funding Obamacare. There were four votes in the Senate last week, and the senator said he voted twice on procedural motions to debate the House-passed bill to fund the government without funding Obamacare. He also said he voted against an amendment by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to restore funding for the law and then against final passage of the amended bill that keeps Obamacare funding intact.
“I support the House-passed bill to fund the government without funding Obamacare, which is why I voted twice this week to move it forward,” Corker said. “After the defunding portion of the bill was taken out, I voted against passage of the amended bill that funded Obamacare. Now, the House, where Republicans have the majority, can make good policy changes and send something back to the Senate that hopefully will pass both chambers.”
Fleischmann said he voted to amend a Senate-passed continuing resolution in an “effort to avoid a government shutdown and stop the job-killing effects of Obamacare.
“In our continuing effort to both avert a government shutdown and defund Obamacare, I proudly cast my vote for two amendments to the continuing resolution,” Fleischmann said. “The first delays Obamacare for a year. President Obama continues to delay bits and pieces of this train wreck of a law; it’s time to get rid of the whole thing. The second amendment permanently repeals the job-killing medical device tax. Once again we in the House have done our part, and I hope the Senate will do the same.”
However, it seemed unlikely late Monday evening that the two sides would reach an agreement before a midnight deadline.
In a press release last week, Alexander opposed a government shutdown. He said Americans should instead elect more Republicans to the U.S. Senate—and ultimately a Republican president—and repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with step-by-step reforms that would reduce the costs of health care.
If the government shuts down, the senator said, blame would shift from Democrats for passing the health care law to Republicans for shutting down the government.
“Every one of us has voted against voted against Obamacare repeatedly,” Alexander said of Republicans in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. “Every one of us would vote to repeal it, but in my view, the right tactic is not to shut down the government. It won’t work—Obamacare would just keep going and we would have shut down the government.”
A government shutdown will not stop the health care law. Alexander said the Affordable Care Act would continue to be funded because nearly 85 percent of the law’s funding is mandatory spending that is not affected by a government shutdown. Obama could also continue to implement the law by deeming it an “essential” part of government services, Alexander said.