Scalise says he doesn’t want to see government shut down

Though he signed a letter threatening to do so rather than fund the new federal health care overhaul, state Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise told reporters Monday that he opposes shutting down the federal government.

“I’m not going to say how I would or would not vote until I read it,” Scalise, R-Jefferson, said about a “continuing resolution” or appropriations bill that would continue to fund the federal government after Sept. 30. If the funding is not approved a number of government agencies will have to be shut down.

“I don’t support funding Obamacare. I voted to repeal it, defund it in every way possible,” Scalise told the Press Club of Baton Rouge. “I know that every Republican I’m working with, is working on a plan to fund the government.”

Eighty of the U.S. House’s 233 Republicans, including Scalise, signed a letter asking Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to resist any spending bills that would accommodate the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. Parts of the health care revamp are beginning to take effect and the bulk of the new law will take effect in January.

The letter to Boehner is aimed at trying to find ways to defund Obamacare as Congress goes through the appropriations process, Scalise said. “Ultimately, let’s work with the president, who has admitted his own health care law has serious problems,” he said.

The letter, drafted by U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., urges Boehner and the GOP House leadership “to affirmatively de-fund the implementation and enforcement of Obamacare in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House floor. …” Republicans control a majority in the House.

Democrats are the majority of the Senate. Though a handful of GOP senators have signed a similar letter, the Senate and President Barack Obama are not expected to go along with Republican House demands not to fund Obamacare, which was approved by Congress, found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court and survived more than 40 efforts to overturn by House Republicans. Both Democratic and Republican congressional leaders say a standoff on funding likely would result in a shutdown of the federal government.

Scalise said if the government is shut down, it would be Obama’s fault and not the Republicans’. Under rules passed in the 1970s, Scalise told the audience of about 35, the president has authority to choose what government offices must close in order to provide “essential” services. The government last was partially shut down in 1995 and 1996.

Scalise said the Republican Study Committee in Congress, which has 117 members, is drafting an alternative to Obamacare that he hopes will be ready sometime in September. He said the legislation would address lowering premium prices by making the marketplace more competitive and giving consumers an opportunity to compare policies before buying.