Hospital 2
A U.S. hospital. Reuters

Divisions among House Republicans over defunding Obamacare are deepening, with members butting heads on timing. Some want to bring the strategy into play now, with the nation only 13 days away from a government shutdown. Others think it will be more useful to wait for the debt ceiling debate later, when they could have more bargaining power.

The hope of the latter group is that after Oct. 1, when the insurance exchanges mandated by the new health care law open, premiums in many states will increase, further sinking an already unpopular health care law.

“The idea is that there’s going to be more bad news to come out after Oct. 1 about Obamacare,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La., told The Hill, “and so the momentum will continue to build in our direction that Obamacare is a bad idea, so delay helps us.”

Some conservatives have already balked at a continuing resolution the House Appropriations Committee introduced last week to keep funding the government, because it didn’t include language to defund Obamacare. Such language was instead included in a concurrent resolution that accompanied the main resolution. It would have funded the government until Dec. 15, when lawmakers would find a more permanent solution. However, Republicans said the Senate could have easily defeated that bill with its Democratic majority, and proceeded to fund the government.

The movement to withhold money from the health care law did take a step forward last Thursday, however, when Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., introduced his Stability, Security and Fairness Resolution. This measure proposes to fund the government for fiscal year 2014, while delaying funding for Obamacare until 2015.

“After weeks of working with and listening to members on how to approach the government funding deadline, it’s clear that House Republicans are united around two goals: keeping the government open and protecting our constituents from the harmful effects of Obamacare,” Graves said in a statement. “This plan is straightforward. We will achieve long-term stability by funding the government for the next fiscal year. ... Finally, our plan will achieve fairness for every American by fully delaying and defunding Obamacare until 2015. This approach builds upon the Obama administration’s policy of delaying portions of Obamacare and relieves taxpayers of the burden of funding a program that is not being implemented.”

The Graves resolution already has nearly 60 co-sponsors and fits with what Senate conservatives like Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have in mind.

“The Congress should delay the mandate for American families too,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who is also a co-sponsor. “[It] will keep the government open while keeping overall spending at the same rate the Senate has already agreed to through the sequester.”

Labrador urged the House leadership to bring the measure to the floor for a vote.

“If the House passes it and the Senate rejects it, it will be the Senate that’s responsible for shutting down the government,” Labrador said. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but House Republicans must seize this opportunity to keep our promises to the American people on Obamacare.”