Eye on the Delegation: Defund Obamacare or shutdown the gov’t?

The Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” the nation’s sweeping health care reform law, was signed into law in March of 2010. The Supreme Court found it constitutional in June of 2012. Some provisions of the law have been up and running for years. The act’s signature health-insurance exchanges will come online on the first day of October in states across the country, including in Colorado.

Already, at least some of the law’s provisions have become popular. Those provisions include one that allows young people, aged 18 to 26, to remain on their parents’ insurance policies; another that ensures a larger percentage of insurance policy payments go to patient health care and not to insurance company overhead; and another that guards against the common insurance-industry practice of denying coverage to Americans who have “pre-existing health conditions” — afflictions as common as high cholesterol, asthma and diabetes.

Republican lawmakers have campaigned against the bill ever since it was first proposed, even though it was based on proposals first put forward by Republican officials. Indeed, Republican 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney ran against the law and lost, even though he fought for and passed the prototype for the bill in Massachusetts when he was governor.

Before today, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives had voted 40 times to repeal or otherwise undermine Obamacare. None of the House’s Obamacare bills have had any legislative effect. That’s because the Senate is controlled by Democrats, who support the law, and the leaders of the Senate have made it clear that they will decline to even take up the House’s repeal proposals. What’s more, the Senate must send its own version of all eventual laws to the House. This Democratic Senate’s version of any proposed law will be free of provisions to defund Obamacare. House versions and Senate versions of all proposed laws have to be reconciled before any version lands on the President’s desk to be signed. In the extreme unlikely event that any House Obamacare defunding proposal made it to his desk, President Obama would quash it with a veto.

Yet Friday morning, House Republicans voted again nearly unanimously to defund Obamacare, this time as part of a short-term spending bill necessary to keep government offices open and government services running, which raises the stakes considerably.

Some form of a “continuing resolution” spending bill must be passed by September 30 in order to keep the federal government fully in business.

Today’s House vote is the first punch in a brawl that is stumbling toward the nation’s debt ceiling. Lawmakers must vote to raise the debt ceiling by October in order to pay back money Congress already voted to spend and that the government has already spent.

A standoff over the debt ceiling two years ago resulted in the first-ever downgrading of the country’s credit rating. The obvious Capitol Hill dysfunction delivered rippling shocks to the country’s economy. The delay in raising the debt ceiling also halted government investing, which led to an estimated $18.9 billion spike in government borrowing.

What do the Colorado members of the delegation in Washington have to say about today’s 41st House vote to derail Obamacare? The Independent left messages for each member. Most forwarded releases or sent email statements. Others talked yesterday to Denver Post reporter Allison Sherry, who covers the delegation. Rep. Mike Coffman stands out for declining to comment.


Senate opinion on the House vote:


udall150 Sen. Mark Udall (D) “With 10 days to go until the government shutdown, Republicans are playing a game of chicken — with themselves. In order to appease the party’s far-right wing, Republican House leadership held a vote TODAY to defund Obamacare — or shutter the government and throw our economy into a tailspin. This is about more than healthcare. This is about keeping food inspectors on the job, making sure our troops get paid, and getting loans to small businesses that need them.”


bennet150 Sen. Michael Bennet (D) “The idea that we would even be discussing a government shutdown days into Colorado’s recovery efforts is absurd. For our communities that are trying to rebuild in the aftermath of one of the worst disasters in the state’s history, this nonsense just adds to the uncertainty and makes the challenge of recovery even more difficult. Coloradans want us to stop the political games and come together around commonsense bipartisan solutions that reduce the debt.”


House votes and comments:


Degette150 District 1 Rep. Diana DeGette (D) NAY “House Republicans know full well that the Continuing Resolution we voted on today will not become law. Their gambit of defunding the Affordable Care Act is unacceptable to the President, the Senate, and the American people. I urge my colleagues to stop these partisan games and work across the aisle to pass a budget that leads to stability and growth.”


Polis150 District 2 Rep. Jared Polis (D) NAY “A shutdown for the federal government would have an enormously negative impact on the recovery,” Polis told the Denver Post. “It would be the worst possible timing,” he said referring to Colorado’s flood-challenged local economies.



tipton150 District 3 Rep. Scott Tipton (R) AYE “I’ll support the bill and the defund portion,” he told the Denver Post. “I think what we’re really going to see is letting the legislative process work. We don’t know what the Senate will do.”



gardner150 District 4 Rep. Cory Gardner (R) AYE “I certainly don’t support a policy that will shut down the government,” Gardner told the Post. “I think that’s up to the president whether he shuts down the government.”




lamborn150 District 5 Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) AYE “Everyday I hear from constituents who are worried about losing their healthcare insurance, or even their job, as a result of ObamaCare. I am pleased the House took this stand today to protect the American people… It is now up to the Senate to fund the government and protect Americans from ObamaCare.”


coffman150 District 6 Rep. Mike Coffman (R) AYE Coffman, whose district is now evenly divided between Republicans, Democrats and Unaffiliated voters, didn’t return calls for comment and declined to comment when asked to by the Denver Post.



Perlmutter150 District 7 Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D) NAY The continuing resolution we were forced to vote on today is no way to run a country. Tea Party ideologues continue to treat their chosen job of governing like it’s a game and hijack the business of our country. The Speaker had the chance to do the right thing and offer a balanced plan to keep the government running, but instead he forced us to vote on another pointless, phony bill that risks the full faith and credit of our nation and takes away affordable access to health insurance for millions of people with pre-existing conditions. Like all Americans — I’m frustrated and exasperated we are forced to keep taking these sham votes.”

The Colorado Independent is a statewide online news source operating in a time when spin is plentiful, but factual, fair and unflinching news in the public interest is all too rare. Our award-winning team of veteran investigative and explanatory reporters and news columnists aims to amplify the voices of Coloradans whose stories are unheard, shine light on the relationships between people, power and policy, and hold public officials to account. We strive to report the news with context, social conscience, and soul, and to give Coloradans the insight they need to promote conversation, understanding and progress in this square, swing state we call home.