WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama accused congressional Republicans on Friday of “trying to mess with me” after the House voted to defund Obamacare in a must-pass spending bill.
“They're focused on politics,” the president said at a Ford Motor Co. plant near Kansas City. “They're focused on trying to mess with me.”
The president's comments came just hours after the Republican-controlled House approved a resolution to keep government funded through Dec. 15 while denying money to implement the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The federal government's fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and Congress must approve funding to keep agencies operating after that day. Though Social Security checks and Medicare wouldn't be affected, many other services would be cut off in the event of a shutdown.
“This is not abstract,” the president said Friday. “Hundreds of thousands of Americans will not be allowed to go to work. Our men and women in uniform, even those deployed overseas, won't get their paychecks on time. Small businesses, they won't get their loans processed.”
The House bill passed 230-189; two Democrats voted for it, while one Republican opposed it.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said, “The president's health care law is turning our full-time economy into a part-time economy. Let's defund this law and protect the American people from the economic calamity we know this law will create.”
Focus is now on Senate
The focus now shifts to the Democratic-controlled Senate and the two tea party Republicans — Sens. Ted Cruz, of Texas, and Mike Lee, of Utah — who have been driving the effort to defund Obamacare through the spending bill.
Some House Republicans have accused Cruz of talking big but then surrendering this week to the realities of a Democratic majority when he made tepid comments about the bill's chances. Cruz on Friday called for party unity.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has already declared the legislation dead and is expected to employ procedural maneuvers to strip out the House language on Obamacare.
“Republicans are simply postponing for a few days the inevitable choice they must face: pass a clean bill to fund the government, or force a shutdown,” Reid said Friday.
He said Democrats are ready to work with reasonable people to improve the health care law, “but Republican attempts to take an entire law hostage simply to appease the tea party anarchists are outrageous, irresponsible and futile.”
The Senate could take several days to work through the process, and the wrangling could stretch into next weekend.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, who was among the original proponents of the strategy to defund Obamacare through the temporary spending bill, said the legislation “funds the government, prevents a shutdown and stops Obamacare from being imposed on the American people.
“The fight to stop Obamacare now turns to the Senate, and the American people expect and deserve an up-or-down vote on the bill passed in the House.”
Other members of Oklahoma's all-Republican congressional delegation argued at town hall meetings last month that the tea party strategy was flawed since it would never become law — and wouldn't really defund Obamacare if it did — and they warned against shutting down the government.
But all five Oklahomans in the House voted for the bill and released statements adopting the main tea party talking point — that the bill was aimed at keeping the government open.
The House next week is expected to vote to raise the debt ceiling and attach other conditions, including the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline's northern leg.
Obama on Friday said the United States was not a “deadbeat” nation that didn't pay its debts, and he reiterated his opposition to negotiating over the debt ceiling.