Obama test-drives his budget-crisis rhetoric, squashes GOP as health-haters

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama took his budget-crisis rhetoric out for a drive Friday, rolling right over the much-publicized call by three GOP Senators to stop Obamacare by shutting down the federal government in October.

“My friends in the other party have made preventing [30 million] people from getting heath care their Holy Grail,” Obama told friendly reporters at an afternoon press conference in the White House.

“The one unifying principle the Republican Party has is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health-care,” he said, portraying the three GOP Senators as representative of the GOP.

Threatening to shut down government “is hard to understand as an agenda that is going to strengthen our middle class… [and] there’s not even a pretext now they’re going to replace it with something better,” Obama said.

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and and Marco Rubio are calling on the GOP to stop funding the federal government after September unless Obama agrees to shut down his signature accomplishment, Obamacare.

The three Senators are competing to boost their support among the GOP’s base, which deeply dislikes Obamacare’s takeover of the nation’s health-care sector. The issue is especially important for Rubio, whose support among GOP primary voters has fallen after he backed the pending immigration expansion.

But nearly all other establishment Republican figures oppose this high-stakes strategy.

The defund government argument is opposed by Oklahoma conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, for example, who claims Obamacare won’t be affected by a shutdown.

It is also opposed by Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and other conservative activists, who say it distracts the base’s recess-time attention from a more important and winnable campaign to stop Obama’s push for an unpopular influx of low-skill, Democratic-leaning immigrants.

Establishment Republicans also oppose the plan to defund government, saying it strengthens Obama’s clout during budget negotiations in the fall, and damages the GOP’s standing among swing-voters prior to the 2014 mid-term election and the 2016 presidential election.

Obamacare “is bad for the economy, it’s bad for people’s insurance… [but] shutting down the government is not the way,” said Ari Fleischer, a top consultant to the Republican national Committee. Cruz “needs to bring it back and be reasonable [because] it is a mistake for Republicans to pursue,” Fleischer told CNN after Obama’s press conference.

But the three Senators continue to push the issue publicly.

Cruz, for example, released a statement on Monday calling for a “grassroots army to fight Obamacare.”

“We need to activate another grassroots army — this time on a national scale,” he said in his weekly “Freedom Minute” audio segment Aug. 5.

“In September, Congress will have the opportunity to defund Obamacare–the disastrous health care law, which is killing jobs and hurting the health care system [and] the only way we can win this debate is if the American people rise up and demand it,” he said.

“Please join us and let your representatives know where you stand.”’

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Neil Munro