WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy joined more than one-third of U.S. House Republicans in urging the leadership to threaten to force a government shutdown unless Obamacare is defunded.
Previously, Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, was hesitant to weigh in strongly on whether he would back any kind of shutdown, arguing that he could not support such an effort if it affected expenditures, such as cutting off dollars for the nation’s military and veterans.
The letter that Cassidy signed onto includes 80 of the House’s 233 Republicans and asks the GOP House leadership not to support any spending bill — including a needed continuing resolution to avoid a partial government shutdown after Sept. 30 — unless the Affordable Care Act health care law is defunded.
Also signing the letter were U.S. Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, and John Fleming, R-Minden, both of whom have been more vocal in their support of defunding Obamacare at any cost. U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has supported a similar approach in the Senate.
U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, have opposed taking the more extreme shutdown threat approach, arguing that it would backfire on Republicans and hurt benefits for people like military veterans. But Boustany and Alexander have voted to repeal or defund Obamacare roughly 40 times.
While the letter does not specifically ask for a government shutdown, it does ask the GOP leadership to oppose any continuing spending resolution that funds the health care law. Democrats and President Barack Obama will never support any bill that does not fund health care, so the leadership of both parties agreed that such an approach would lead to the shutdown of countless government services for the first time since 1996. The government shutdown would not cut off most of the funding for the Affordable Care Act implementation.
Before signing the letter, Cassidy was listed on the conservative group Heritage Action’s target list for not fighting to defund Obamacare at all costs.
Cassidy is running for the U.S. Senate in 2014 against Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who supports the health care law. The only other Republican in the race, thus far, is retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rob Maness, of Madisonville. He accuses Cassidy of being an Obamacare supporter for not taking a hard-line stance.
Cassidy did not respond to an interview request Friday, but cited his Obamacare opposition in a prepared statement response.
“I believe we must defund and repeal Obamacare,” Cassidy stated. “I have been a leader on this, voting over 40 times to repeal. The concern is that President Obama will use this as an excuse to slash the military and otherwise stop funding our troops among other concerns. This must be balanced. Let’s remember, we got here because President Obama and the Senate forced Obamacare on the people.”
Cassidy worded things differently when asked about the issue at public event earlier this week.
“If funding for Obamacare ends up being wrapped into other things such as funding for the military, then I have to support things such as funding for the military,” Cassidy said.
“It depends on what you mean by shutting down the government,” he added. “If you mean that the guys on active duty don’t get bullets, or that their spouses who are stateside don’t have a check to pay their rent, I am not willing to do that.”
The Louisiana Democratic Party also was quick to seize on the issue Friday.
“Bill Cassidy is only for or against something when it is good politics for him — not whether it is the best thing for the people of Louisiana,” the party’s communications director, Kirstin Alvanitakis, said.