Hospital Surgery NJ 2007
A hospital in New Jersey. Reuters

Republicans say defunding Obamacare is their last-ditch effort to try and kill the new health care law, but they are actually uncertain whether there are enough votes to make it happen.

“Well, I don’t know [whether there are enough votes],” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in response to a reporter’s question in Florida on Monday. “I don’t know where we are today on it. I think we’ve got a lot more convincing to do.”

The idea to provoke a government shutdown if the new health care law is funded began with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who along with 11 others, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., last month, warning they are planning to not vote for a 2014 continuing resolution (a temporary appropriations bill) if it allocates money to Obamacare. Though some senior Republicans have dismissed those efforts as “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” younger Republicans like Rubio and Ted Cruz of Texas -- both rumored 2016 presidential candidates -- remain positive about killing the health care reform Congress passed in 2010.

“I’m open to a better idea,” Rubio said. “If someone’s got a better idea on how to prevent Obamacare from hurting millions of Americans, I’m open to it. But right now the only one I’ve been able to identify is the debate we’re going to have in September. And the only thing I’ve said is, ‘I’m not going to vote for a short-term budget that funds Obamacare.’ I’ll vote for one that doesn’t because even though I’ve traditionally not voted for short-term budgets, I’m willing to do so this time if it doesn’t fund Obamacare.”

The budget and the looming debt ceiling are expected to take over much of the discussions when Congress returns from recess in September. With just nine legislative days next month, lawmakers certainly have their work cut out for them. And President Barack Obama said last week that though there is a threat of a government shutdown, Republicans are unlikely to follow through. “The idea to shut down the government at a time when the economy is gaining some traction. ... I am assuming that they will not take that path,” Obama said at a press conference Friday. “I have confidence that common sense in the end will prevail.”

But if there is a government shutdown in the fall, Rubio said it’s Obama’s fault.

“I don’t want the government to shut down,” he said. “I want our military to function. I want our Social Security checks to go out. I think we should pass a budget that funds the government. I just don’t think it should fund Obamacare because it’s a disaster. We shouldn’t waste a single cent more on a disaster. If it shuts down, it’s because the president chooses to do so. It’s the president who’s threatening to shut down the government. It’s the president who is saying that if we don’t fund Obamacare he wants to shut down the government. I think that’s a bad position for him to have.”