By Molly K. Hooper - 08/07/13 09:33 PM EDT
Hardcore supporters of an effort to defund ObamaCare are banking on voter outrage over the congressional recess to convince their leaders to adopt the strategy.
Speaker John Boehner and other GOP leaders have been very hesitant to support the idea, as some Republicans argue President Obama will never agree to defund his signature law.
But those who insist the GOP must do everything it can to defund ObamaCare believe they can still win the day if enough grassroots supporters make their voices heard in the next several weeks.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), one of the handful of House conservatives leading the charge, says that the next five weeks will be key in building support for linking ObamaCare with the must-pass spending bill.
“We're going to keep pushing it ... I think that the more support we build up outside will push our leadership to find a route and I think it's possible,” Stutzman said.
Stutzman was the first House member to state unequivocally that he would oppose a 2014 government funding bill if it fails to defund the president’s signature legislative achievement.
Congress must pass a government funding measure or the government will shut down on Oct. 1.
Prior to heading home for August, a number of GOP lawmakers publicly and privately shot down the effort to tie defunding ObamaCare with a government funding measure. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) called it “political suicide.”
But Tea Party groups have rallied to the cause, as have conservative GOP Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah). Conservative talk show host Sean Hannity also promised to crusade for the cause to work up support for it. Heritage Action has lined up nine town halls across the country starting on Aug. 19 in Fayetteville, Ark., to encourage discontented voters to make their voices heard.
And FreedomWorks has started a website encouraging voters to demand additional lawmaker town halls over the August recess, where they believe voters can convince hesitant lawmakers to pursue the strategy.
The goal of the groups is to call out GOP lawmakers this August the way that Democrats were called out at town halls around the country in 2009, when the legislative debate over the healthcare law was at its most heated.
At least one progressive advocacy group is hoping to recreate some of that heat, encouraging supporters to seek out GOP lawmaker town-hall meetings and ask tough questions on hot-button issues, including Obamacare.
Americans United for Change (AUC) spokesman Jeremy Funk told The Hill that they are employing a divide-and-conquer strategy “to help make it a lot hotter under the collar for all elected GOP lawmakers — both the hostage takers and the show-voters.”
AUC has created a website with an exhaustive list of GOP-hosted events across the country to encourage their supporters to show up with targeted questions.
“Would you be willing to shut down the government if your continued efforts to defund or repeal Obamacare are unsuccessful?,” is one question that liberals are encouraged to ask. Funk explained that his members have been instructed to “always have their digital camera or their phone running, and if the Congressman says something insane, we’ll make him/her a national headline/joke and put others on notice of what could happen to them if they continue to do try to take away people’s health security.”
Some lawmakers unafraid of the political ramifications of forcing a government shutdown over ObamaCare say they think the grassroots effort will be successful.
“There are a lot of members, I think when they go home there's going to be pressure on them” to reject any government funding bill that includes money for ObamaCare, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) told The Hill.