After 40 failed votes to repeal Obamacare, several Republicans are threatening anew to block government funding unless the health reform law gets defunded. This threat is nothing new; Republicans have repeatedly demanded that every appropriations bill include a provision to repeal Obamacare since the law was passed. Tea Party lawmakers in 2011 emphasized how dire the situation was, calling for a “blood oath” to “choke Obamacare.”
Now, these empty threats are coming back to haunt Republicans who fear they will lose their seats if they take the government hostage. Several new town hall videos show lawmakers grappling with furious demands from constituents to shut down the government like the GOP said was needed to defund Obamacare.
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL)
When confronted by one angry constituent, Schock dismissed his pro-shutdown colleagues for “beating their chests” on cable news without thinking about the real-life consequences. “How many weeks would you go without paying Social Security, and how many weeks would you go without paying the troops?” he asked. “And having a young lady walk into my office, whose husband is over in Afghanistan, who can’t pay her mortgage because I’m shutting the government down because I don’t like the health care law? [...] I’m just suggesting that when you get into a fight, politically, you gotta make sure you’re willing to kill the hostage you got. And I am not convinced yet that that’s a hostage we should take headed into this fight.”
Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC)
Pittenger flatly answered “no” when a constituent asked him if he would join the effort to defund Obamacare. Pittenger argued that the vote would be pointless because the Democrat-controlled Senate would never pass the bill. His constituents yelled back that they wanted to “make a stand to get conservatives back on board.” He later released a statement explaining that he would take “responsible steps to defund or replace Obamacare.”
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
At a town hall on Monday, Fortenberry warned of “very significant consequences” should Republicans go forward with their plan, and said “There has to be a better way.” In response, one audience member declared, “We elected Republicans to fight for more conservative policies.”
Many other prominent Republicans have refused to support the shutdown plan. On Sunday, former vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said “there are more effective ways” to get rid of Obamacare. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) scoffed, “It’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” while Sen. Tom Cole (R-OK) called it “a temper tantrum.” Republican governors have also warned that their state economies would suffer enormously if the party takes the government hostage.