Republican senators are beginning to distance themselves from their peers in the House, claiming more extreme lawmakers have been misleading Americans on the shutdown.
“Americans were led to believe that shutting down the government meant shutting down Obamacare,” Outgoing Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) told reporters on Thursday. “And now I’m starting to see that people are mad because they feel like they’ve been duped.”
Johanns stopped short of “pointing fingers” at Republicans. Not so for Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who took to the floor Friday to chastise Republicans directly. “I would say to my Republican colleagues in the House, and to some in this chamber, it’s time for a reality check: Defunding Obamacare did not work as a strategy, so let’s work together to find common ground.”
On Wednesday, she pointed out, “We’ve already seen exhibit A of why it wasn’t a winning strategy. Because the government shut down yesterday and the Obamacare exchanges opened and continued anyway.”
Ayotte was elected as part of the Tea Party sweep in 2010, and campaigned on her aversion to Obamacare. She even co-sponsored a repeal bill soon after she took office. Johanns, meanwhile, recently called on Obama to “permanently delay Obamacare for all.”
Of course, there was never any question that a shutdown would have little impact on Obamacare’s implementation. The law is not tied to annual spending bills, and so was not affected by Congress’ failure to avert the shutdown. The Department of Health and Human Services made clear last week that Obamacare implementation would continue as planned, even as other employees were furloughed.
According to multiple reports, just 30 Republicans are driving the party’s hardline stance on the shutdown. At least 21 House Republicans suggested they would support a clean continuing resolution to fund the government again if House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) brought it to the floor.