WASHINGTON — Emboldened conservatives who forced House Republican leaders to push a stopgap spending bill that unravels President Barack Obama’s health care law are digging in for a long fight, determined to stop “Obamacare” before the first individual signs up in less than two weeks.
Just ask the two lawmakers — one a first-term businessman from North Carolina, the other a self-described “North Georgia country boy” elected just months after Obama signed the law — who spurred the rank and file to pressure the leadership on the tea party’s signature issue.
“Our resolve on this is unrelenting,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, whose letter in July to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., called for collaboration to “defund one of the largest grievances in our time” and attracted 79 Republicans.
Lobbied hard by outside conservative groups such as the Club for Growth, the Madison Project and the Senate Conservatives Fund, Republicans turned the letter into legislation sponsored by third-term Rep. Tom Graves, a 43-year-old from Ranger, Ga., who lists his high school loves as football, algebra and his Mohawk haircut.
More than 140 Republicans signed on to the bill to keep the government running and delay the health care law. On Wednesday, the House leadership signaled it had acquiesced to rank-and-file demands and set a vote for Friday on legislation to fund the government through Dec. 15 at existing levels while permanently defunding the health care law.
Meadows, Graves and other conservatives declined to discuss the likelihood that the Democratic-led Senate would reject their bill and dismissed talk that their actions would cause a politically debilitating government shutdown similar to the House Republican standoff with Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1995-96.
“This is not 1995. This is very different today,” Graves told reporters. “I suggest you interview the folks who come to our town halls and you see the hurt and the pain and the concern in their eyes. You’ll understand why we have the resolve and the constitution here to stand up for them.”