Obamacare Exchanges Ready to Open, but GOP Says Fight Will Continue

Posted September 30, 2013 at 5:05pm

House Republicans have voted more than 40 times in the past two and a half years to derail the Obamacare “trainwreck” ahead of the Oct. 1 date when health care exchanges go live.

With that deadline finally at hand, Republicans insist they are not giving up on undoing the law, even if it’s not clear what the effect of reversing course might be now that Americans will finally buy insurance on those exchanges. Indeed, House Republicans — after being rebuked twice by Senate Democrats for their attempts to attach Obamacare delay and defunding provisions to a stopgap spending bill — announced again Monday that they would seek to postpone for a year the mandate that individuals purchase insurance, pushing the government to the verge of a shutdown because of the legislative volleys between the chambers.

Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America, said over the summer that the Oct. 1 start date for exchanges made the continuing resolution the appropriate vehicle to fight for a dismantling of the law, given that funding for the government was set to expire the same day.

Republican Policy Committee Chairman James Lankford on Monday said the date was indeed important to Republican efforts.

“I think it’s why the focus is so much on now,” the Oklahoma Republican said. “Obviously we’ve done 40 votes over the course of the last three years to try to deal with this a piece at a time, when it wasn’t critical. Everyone talks about, ‘Now we’re in a crisis, why are we doing it now?’ and I said, ‘We tried to do this in a non-crisis form for three years,’ so now we gotta get there. We gotta say to the Senate, ‘We’re serious about this.’ Now’s the moment.”

“I always thought this was our best ground to fight it on,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., said Saturday about tying the Obamacare defunding language to the CR.

Lankford and Huelskamp said it was important to keep fighting and said they didn’t see the crusade diminishing.

It was a sentiment echoed by many GOP lawmakers on Monday, as the House Republican Conference continued to look for ways to unravel various parts of the health care law as part of the CR.

“The fight just started,” said Rep. John Fleming, R-La.

And in the words of one House GOP leadership aide, the fight may have just gotten easier: “People will actually see how bad it is.”

But Democrats indicated Monday that they believe their ability to beat back legislation intended to undermine the law would pay dividends, now that many of the Affordable Care Act provisions are going into effect.

“We are not going to mess around with Obamacare, no matter what they do. They have got to get a life,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. “The exchanges are coming on board tomorrow. It is just like Social Security, it’s just Medicare. You know, Republicans hated those two programs, but now they are so popular with everybody, and give it a little bit of time, Obamacare will be supported by 90 percent of the American people, just like Medicare.”

The Obama administration has already delayed a few portions of the law in advance of its implementation date relating to the mandates that businesses pay for their employees’ insurance.

Such delays, Republicans say, prove that Obamacare is “not ready for prime time.”

“Now that it’s being implemented, it’s showing — this is the administration showing — that it’s not working and they are cherry picking what they are going to implement and what they’re not going to implement shows the law is not working,” said Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind. “For us to ask for a delay is very reasonable.”

Holler said Monday that the debate doesn’t lose its focus; it just changes.

“The conversation has shifted,” he said. “That’s an important step before winning anything, that there’s an attention on the law that there deserves to be.”