In a crowded hall on the Spanish Fork fairgrounds in Utah County, Sen. Mike Lee held a crowd of more than 300 constituents spellbound. Like a preacher leading a revival meeting, Lee explained the miracle he would seek to perform that would ultimately lead President Barack Obama to somehow sign into law a resolution that would defund his own Affordable Healthcare Act legislation of 2010.
With Congress on recess, Lee took to Utah County to explain his upcoming legislative priorities and his current quest to halt the Affordable Healthcare Act, or “Obamacare,” before it takes effect on October 1. It's part of a series of meeting Lee held across the state, with the notable exception of Salt Lake County.
The crowd in attendance was so large the meeting had to be moved from one meeting room to a much larger facility. Though the room was packed with sympathetic ears, many of whom would spontaneously grumble words like “unconstitutional” or “the worst law” and boo and hiss when Lee talked about Obamacare, a few still had to voice doubts about Lee's plan.
“While we applaud your efforts to defund Obamacare, can you explain how exactly you will accomplish this?” asked a man in the crowd. Like a School-House Rock episode, the answer that followed was a literal explanation of how a law is passed, or in this case a “continuing resolution.”
Lee explained that a resolution passed in the House would authorize the continued funding of federal-government expenses for everything except the implementation and enforcement of “Obamacare.”
“That continuing resolution, once passed by the House, goes over to be passed by the Senate and then is submitted to the President and signed by the President, making it become law,” Lee said.
What Lee did not get into was a practical explanation of how the resolution would pass. How it would be that Obama would approve the defeat of the legislation that has defined his presidency, or prior to that, how a Democratic majority in the Senate would approve such a resolution.
Or how he would even get influential members of his own party to support the legislation, since many Republicans in the Senate have balked at supporting the effort that some worry will make the Republicans look like obstructionists, hurting election chances in 2014.
According to Lee's DontFundObamaCare.com site, only 14 Republicans in the Senate have pledged to defund Obamacare. Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, Sen. Mich McConnell, R-KY and even Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT have declined to support Lee's effort.
Not only did Lee not dwell on the political roadblocks to the effort, but he quickly pivoted his rhetoric to make another argument to those who might say his plan is obstructionist or playing a game of brinksmanship on the Hill. Not only did Lee deny his plan was threatening a shutdown of the government, but he insisted that in fact it was opponents of his plan who were actually threatening a shutdown.
To keep the government operating, a continuing resolution for funding needs to be passed by Sept. 30. Lee argues that if he successfully adds language to the resolution that would strip funding for the implementation and enforcement of Obamacare, then those who would not support it would be the ones threatening a shutdown.
“A lot of people have blatantly mis-characterized this as shutdown threat; it is not. Let me be very clear I've never asked for a shutdown, never called for a shutdown. What I'm trying to do is avoid a shutdown,” Lee told the crowd. He then went on to explain that those who would oppose passing the resolution to defund Obamacare were the ones looking for a shutdown. “
The only reason anyone calls it a shutdown is itself an indication that they are willing to shut down the government. Even if we are willing to fund everything else in government, they're willing to shut it down if we won't give them everything they want, including Obamacare, and I say that is not fair!” Lee's explanation that it's his opponents threatening a shutdown by not supporting him was met with thunderous applause, and for one hot August night in the heart of Utah, the end of Obamacare seemed to have a fighting chance.
But, even Lee acknowledged that the plan was a tall order, one that he would not place odds on.
“I don't know what the odds are on this,” Lee said. “But, the one way we can be certain is if we do nothing. If we do nothing, we know that won't work. If we don't do anything, the train will keep coming and it will hit us.”