WASHINGTON — Hundreds of sign-waving tea partiers rallied on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday to demand that Republicans in Congress take authentic steps to defund President Obama’s health-care law and not just keep going through the motions to appease the conservative base.
“Over the next few days, we’re going to see all sorts of games, showmanship, shenanigans and other things that other people in the ruling elite will try to do to pull the wool over our eyes,” said Jenny Beth Martin, the national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots.
“No more phony votes,” Martin said, apparently referencing a new plan favored by the House Republican leadership. “It’s time for real action.”
The rally comes as conservatives — including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee — are pushing a tactic of only voting for a continuing resolution to fund the government if it includes defunding Obamacare.
Under current law, the government is funded until Sept. 30, meaning a continuing resolution needs to be passed to keep the government from shutting down.
But inside the Republican Party, many lawmakers object to the strategy, saying they are against any scenario that could lead to the shutting down of the government. Critics say the strategy gives false hope because it simply won’t work. Without having control of the Senate or the presidency, Republicans would be unable to pass the legislation.
While the House GOP leadership is against the strategy, Majority Leader Eric Cantor put forward an alternative plan on Tuesday that would force the Senate to vote on defunding Obamacare before the House approves a continuing resolution bill.
“Our goal here is not to shut down the government,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said Tuesday. “Our goal is to cut spending and to stop Obamacare.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz reacted strongly against the plan on Tuesday, saying “If House Republicans go along with this strategy, they will be complicit in the disaster that is Obamacare.”
“The American people are not surprised that politicians in Washington–of both parties–are afraid to take a stand,” Cruz said. “But another symbolic vote against Obamacare is meaningless.”
At the “Exempt America” rally organized by the conservative Tea Party Patriots and ForAmerica organizations on Tuesday, conservative lawmakers argued that despite what the critics say, their strategy can work.
Under this scenario, the conservatives say that if enough lawmakers support the strategy, President Obama will have to choose between funding the government or Obamacare.
“Before I step down from this podium, I want to make one thing very clear,” Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said Tuesday. “We have to dispel a myth, a myth that is wrong. A myth that says we can’t win this battle. The truth is when we band together as American citizens, who want nothing more than to defend our freedom, and our family’s access to affordable health-care, we can do anything. And we can stop this law from being funded.”
“Twenty days to go,” Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Graves told the crowd, referencing the time legislators have to tie the defunding Obamacare effort to the Sept. 30 deadline to pass a continuing resolution. “Twenty days, that’s it. We’ve got to commit to getting this done. This isn’t about shutting down the government. This is about stopping Obamacare.”
Throughout the speeches at the rally on Tuesday, the tea partiers chanted, “Defund it, Defund it.” But many of the anti-President Obama attendees held signs that gave a glimpse to the other issues the conservative grassroots are energized about.
A number of signs portrayed opposition to the bombing Syria, and outrage over last year’s attacks in Benghazi. Others included more colorful messages, like “Lenin loves Obamacare,” “Obama a bigger threat than Al-Qaeda” and “Impeach our dictator.”