In a recent press release, Utah Senator Mike Lee (Republican) claims the Federal Government’s shutdown of previously funded items such as national parks and museums is proof of the power Obamacare will have over the life of the average citizen.
“The Obama Administration’s behavior during the first week of the shutdown has been the best argument against Obamacare anyone has ever made,” said Senator Lee in a prepared statement. “This is exactly why we should not expand the government’s power over our health care choices. What power the government has, it will use – and misuse – to advance its own interests, even if that means punishing the American people along the way.”
“I will not vote for spending legislation that votes for Obamacare,” Lee told the Huffington Post in a September 21st article. The article goes on to note that Lee “argues that he’s trying to keep the government operating and end the health care law.”
Lee, along with Texas Senator Ted Cruz (Republican), convinced the Republican-controlled House to add language to the government’s budget bill that would have defunded the Affordable Care Act. The bill passed in the House along near partisan lines – with the exception of one no vote from Virginia Republican Scott Rigell and two yes votes from North Carolina Democrat Mike McIntyre and Utah’s Jim Matheson.
The Democrat-controlled Senate, however, was unlikely to defund their party’s flagship legislation and, even if they did, it was doubtful that the President would stop a law that he campaigned on. Nor were the Democrats under much pressure to cave. While Lee, Cruz, and the GOP were trying to leverage the threat of a shutdown, Obamacare itself is under mandatory funds, and not subject to a shutdown. Meanwhile, national support for the Republican’s tactics is dropping quickly, as voters become less willing to accept the shutdown as an acceptable cost of fighting against Obamacare.
In the statement released Tuesday, Lee claims that Obama “allow[ed] the government to shutdown, and then use his power to close national parks and monuments, stop paying veterans’ benefits, and cut off cancer research. This is exactly why we should not expand the government’s power over our health care choices. What power the government has, it will use – and misuse – to advance its own interests, even if that means punishing the American people along the way.” In a Fox News interview published to Lee’s YouTube page, Lee expanded on this idea, claiming that the President is the one “making things as uncomfortable as his administration can possibly make them in order to allow him [to] more effectively get what he wants out of Congress…the people don’t want more power in the hands of the government that could be used against them in future political battles…the American people intuitively understand we shouldn’t be making the Federal Government more powerful, especially in an area as personal as health care.”
Despite Lee’s statements, public opinion appears to be turning against Lee locally. This, compounded with the national Republican Party’s popularity reaching a record low, spells trouble for Lee.
In a Gallup poll released yesterday, the national Republican party has a 28 percent favorability rate, dropping 10 percent when compared to September (Democratic favorability dropped 4 percent during the same time frame) while national unfavorabilty rates for the GOP reached a record high, with more than six in ten people polled having a negative opinion of the party. Locally, a newly released BYU opinion poll shows that 57 percent of Utahns would prefer that Lee be more willing to compromise “even if it means passing a budget with funding for the Affordable Care Act.” Though nearly every self-identified Democrat polled felt this way, a sizable minority of self-identified Republicans (38 percent in the poll) felt that Lee needs to take a step back. Only one in 10 self-identified Tea Party supporters felt that Lee should reevaluate his position.
And, locally, the shutdown is hurting Utah communities. Grand County, home to Arches and parts of the Canyonlands National Park, declared a formal state of emergency Wednesday, noting that 75 percent of the county is Federal land and that the estimated 2.5 million annual tourists comprise 76 percent of the county’s economy. In the deceleration, Grand County officials say that the shutdown has resulted in an estimated loss of $2.6 million to the economy in the nine days since the shutdown began.
Lee, for his part, does not appear to be moving on his position, telling the Salt Lake Tribune that “the only numbers I’m concerned with are the percentage of Utahns who are feeling the negative effects of Obamacare.” Lee’s office did not respond to requests for comment on what his plan is moving forward or the general feedback his office has received from the public.