Obamacare Opponents’ Shouts for Defunding Largely Ignored on Capitol Hill

National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
Sept. 10, 2013, 5:30 p.m.

“I hope I don’t get skin can­cer out here!” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., ex­claimed to the few hun­dred people as­sembled in front of the Cap­it­ol on Tues­day af­ter­noon. “Can you ima­gine the line?”

He was talk­ing about the Af­ford­able Care Act. And the line was for health­care. Crowd mem­bers laughed as they fanned them­selves with fol­ded “Ex­empt Amer­ica” signs de­pict­ing the Amer­ic­an flag. People were seated in col­lapsible chairs, some hold­ing um­brel­las to block the strong sun, as Paul railed against Obama­care to a com­mit­ted and vo­cal crowd.

“Any­one here want to wait a year for their gall blad­der to come out?” “No!”

“How about we de­fund the whole damn thing?” “De­fund!”

The Ex­empt Amer­ica From Obama­care rally was the latest at­tempt by tea-party groups and some law­makers to re­in­vig­or­ate their calls for Con­gress to re­ject a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion at the end of this month that would in­clude fund­ing for the health care law.

The plan to threaten a gov­ern­ment shut­down over Obama­care is gen­er­ally con­sidered to have been a fail­ure. House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor, R-Va., an­nounced a new strategy Tues­day that will in­volve House Re­pub­lic­ans de­mand­ing a one-year delay to the law in ex­change for rais­ing the debt ceil­ing.

Yet the re­l­at­ively small crowd at the rally was en­er­gized and com­mit­ted to the cause, and event or­gan­izers and speak­ers re­mained op­tim­ist­ic. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a lead­ing force in the de­fund-Obama­care move­ment, came to the stage to chants of “Run, Ted, Run!” from the crowd.

“If tra­di­tion­al rules of Wash­ing­ton ap­ply, we can’t win,” Cruz said. “But I’m con­vinced the mod­el has changed. There is a brand-new mod­el in Amer­ica, and that is the rise of the grass­roots.”

The cofounder of Tea Party Pat­ri­ots, Jenny Beth Mar­tin, was on a sim­il­ar page. She said that the event — or­gan­ized in col­lab­or­a­tion with oth­er tea-party or­gan­iz­a­tions, in­clud­ing Her­it­age Ac­tion, Freedom­Works, Cit­izens United, and oth­ers — was about get­ting their mes­sage out to Con­gress and the pub­lic.

“We’re not go­ing away,” Mar­tin told Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily. “We nev­er wanted [Obama­care] to be passed, and we’ll con­tin­ue to fight for free­dom.” Should Con­gress vote this week to keep fund­ing the health care law in the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion, Mar­tin said the fight will be far from over. “We’ll con­tin­ue hav­ing events, mak­ing phone calls to Con­gress, and re­cruit­ing new can­did­ates.”

The move­ment’s loc­al, grass­roots ap­proach was evid­ent in the crowd. Bob Ma­son, 73, came on a bus from North Car­o­lina. Dressed in roy­al-blue co­lo­ni­al at­tire and car­ry­ing a large Amer­ic­an flag over his shoulder, Ma­son left his home at 9 p.m. Monday and was to re­turn at 4 a.m. Wed­nes­day. “[The law] is the worst thing that could hap­pen to Amer­ica,” he said. “Obama­care is re­spons­ible for killing jobs.”

Lead­ers main­tain that the de­fund­ing move­ment is not los­ing steam, des­pite lim­ited sup­port from law­makers and the pub­lic. “It’s gonna be suc­cess­ful,” said former pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate Her­man Cain, who spoke at the rally.

Oth­er speak­ers in­cluded Rep. Michele Bach­mann, R-Minn.; Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla.; and James Golden — the Rush Limbaugh talk-show pro­du­cer and per­son­al­ity.

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