Despite resistance from congressional Republican leadership, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is continuing with his fight to defund the federal Affordable Care Act, calling on grass-roots organizers to join his efforts.
“If ordinary Washington rules apply, we can’t win this fight,” Cruz said Wednesday during a conference call with Texas reporters. “We don’t have the votes, and we are unlikely to get the votes in closed-door meetings in Washington. The only way that we win this fight is if the American people rise up.”
Congress has 61 days remaining to pass a resolution to continue financing federal government operations when the 2014 fiscal year begins Sept 1. If the resolution isn't passed, mandatory spending — such as spending on Social Security and Medicare — would continue, while programs and agencies that rely on discretionary spending, such as defense and federal law enforcement, would be shut down until Congress passed a resolution to resume financing those operations.
“My focus for the next 61 days is very directly targeted to one thing, and that is working to defund Obamacare,” Cruz said Wednesday. “In my view, this is the best opportunity we have to defund Obamacare and quite possibly our last opportunity to effectively defund Obamacare.”
Cruz is calling on the 41 Senate Republicans and the 218 House Republicans to stand together and ensure that explicit language is added to the continuing resolution to prohibit any spending to implement provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Although he has the support of fellow Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have not signed on to support the plan.
If Congress cannot pass a continuing resolution because of a partisan impasse on financing the Affordable Care Act, many Republican veterans, citing the political repercussions of the shutdown during the mid-1990s, fear that the GOP would take the heat for effectively shutting down many government services.
Karl Rove, a veteran Republican consultant, criticized Cruz’s plan to defund the law during an interview Monday with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News.
“Being conservative doesn’t mean you do something that’s going to blow up in your face,” he said.
Cruz agreed that Democrats would probably respond by screaming out "that the mean nasty Republicans are threatening to shut down the federal government." Republicans would have to "win the argument" with the American people that Republicans voted to fund the federal government in its entirety, he added.
"We want to keep the government open," he said. "Why is President Obama threatening to shut down the federal government in order to force Obamacare down the throats of the American people?”
Along with many other provisions in Obama’s signature health reform law, the individual mandate to purchase health insurance is set to take effect on Jan. 1. Individuals who land somewhere between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line will be able to apply for sliding-scale subsidies through state health insurance exchanges that the federal government plans to launch on Oct. 1.
If those provisions take effect on Jan. 1, Cruz said it would be nearly impossible to roll back.
“The Obama administration knows that in modern times, no major entitlement program that’s been implemented has ever been unwound,” said Cruz, adding that he believes the administration’s objective is to get as many Americans as possible “addicted to the subsidies, addicted to the sugar, in order to entrench Obamacare as a permanent feature of our economy.”
With more than 6 million uninsured residents, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the nation. The Kaiser Family Foundation released an interactive map on Wednesday that shows Texas’ uninsured rate could drop from 26.8 percent to 14.3 percent as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The federal health reform law could help 3.1 million Texans become insured, according to the interactive, and decrease the number of uninsured residents in Texas by 46.8 percent.
This story was produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.