Texas Republicans vote to defund health care law

Maria Recio

Despite the risk of another government shutdown, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the only lawmaker representing Tarrant County who was in the U.S. House of Representatives the last the time the federal bureaucracy was shuttered in 1995, nonetheless stood firm Friday with four other Republicans who represent the region and voted to defund Obamacare.

House Republicans, who have tried and failed 41 times to repeal the health care law, included the provision as part of a bill that temporarily funds the federal government for the next three months.

Freshman Democrat U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey of Texas opposed the measure, accusing Republicans of “playing political games” on what was virtually a party line vote, 230-189. The bill now goes to the Senate where it has little chance of survival.

Democrats, who control the Senate, as well as several Republicans, have warned that an impasse between the House and Senate and a promised presidential veto could lead to another partial government shutdown.

But GOP House members said that the defunding effort, pushed most prominently by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, should be passed by the Senate.

“I held nine town hall meetings and at each one people spoke passionately about the real consequences Obamacare will cause in their lives if it is fully implemented,” said Barton. “The Affordable Care Act has changed the landscape of healthcare in our country. It should be about the private and personal relationship between a patient and a doctor. Instead, this law turns it into a complicated web of rules and regulations that now involve government boards and the IRS.”

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, who stood alongside House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., during a raucous post-vote rally, was also critical of the health care plan, while cautioning against a government shutdown.

“This resolution gives Congress and the administration time to come together on a comprehensive budget agreement that reflects the country’s priorities and puts us on a track to a balanced budget,” said Granger. “It is the responsibility of Congress to keep the government open and working on behalf of the people. We cannot afford a government shutdown that would weaken our national security, cut payments to our troops, and introduce more uncertainty into the economy.”

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, thanked Cruz for his summer-long effort to demand a vote defunding Obamacare.

“We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for his vision and his leadership,” said Burgess.

He sounded a slightly different note than many conservative Republicans who were outraged at Cruz’ statements earlier in the week that the Senate would never agree on defunding and that it would be up to the House to wage the fight. The Senate votes next week.

“We give him what he asked for and before we even send it over there, he does a press release saying that it can’t pass,” said U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas in an interview Thursday. “Where’s some of that Ted Cruz charm? It’s time for the Senate to do its job.”

After the House vote on Friday, Cruz was back board.

“Senate Republicans should stand side-by-side with courageous House Republicans,” he said. “The fight to save America from Obamacare is just beginning. It may well go back and forth from the House and Senate several times and a united Republican front means that (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid and the president cannot ignore the American people.”

In a letter to the Senate, all 24 Republican House members from Texas called on Republicans “and like-minded Democrats” to pass the House bill.

Burgess, a physician, said that President Barack Obama’s administration “has all but admitted the failure of this legislation as they’ve continually delayed and discarded of parts of the law.”

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, said, “This is a vote that Americans have been asking for.”

But Veasey said that with the looming threat of a government shutdown on Oct. 1, “instead of working together toward a bipartisan compromise, today, we saw Republican leadership continue to play political games by attempting, for the 42nd time, to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”

By Maria Recio
McClatchy Washington Bureau