Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., wants to strip funding from the Affordable Care Act but is unwilling to risk a government shutdown over a losing cause.
“Shutting down the government will not stop Obamacare,” Coats said Wednesday in a floor speech broadcast by C-SPAN.
With a 54-46 Democratic majority in the Senate, Republicans “don’t have the votes to defeat it,” he said.
Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who voted for the health care law in 2009 as a member of the House, told reporters that federal lawmakers should “stop the fighting, do our jobs and create jobs for Hoosiers who need them and for Americans who need them.” He expressed similar sentiments later in a floor speech.
The Senate voted 100-0 Wednesday to begin debating a House bill that would extend government appropriations past Monday’s end of the fiscal year. The proposal would defund the Affordable Care Act, major provisions of which take effect Jan. 1.
Unless a compromise spending plan is reached between the two chambers, Coats warned, a possible government shutdown would delay benefits for military veterans and Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid recipients; stop paychecks for military families; drain business from defense contractors; and slow approval for medicine and medical devices made in Indiana.
“We know we’re not going to shut down this government for the next three years and four months until we get a new president, and so something has to give,” Coats said.
He suggested the Senate consider his bill, a version of one approved by the Republican House, to postpone the individual health insurance mandate until 2015.
Coats called an implementation delay until after the 2014 elections “the next best thing, because we can’t achieve the best thing, which would be defund” the Affordable Care Act.
Donnelly doubts Coats’ bill will be considered by the Senate.
“I think the discussion will be around improvements” to the Affordable Care Act, he told reporters in a conference telephone call.
Donnelly backs a repeal of the 2.3 percent medical device tax and legislation he introduced to define full-time work as 40 hours a week. Beginning in 2015, the health care law will require employers with at least 50 workers to provide medical insurance for full-time employees – defined as anyone who works at least 30 hours a week.
During his speech, Coats said the Affordable Care Act is “even worse than we thought, worse than our worst nightmares.” He also said, “The sound majority of people in Indiana, Hoosiers, see this bill as a disaster, a disaster for the economy, a disaster for their medical future.”
Asked whether he agreed with Coats, Donnelly said: “I don’t have any polling data, but here’s what I do know: I do know that the Hoosiers who have those pre-existing (medical) conditions that we talked about, they certainly don’t oppose the health care bill.”
“For those between the ages of 21 and 26 who are still able to get coverage (on their parents’ policies), they don’t oppose the health care bill,” he said. “For those who are seeing the premiums available in the insurance exchange and are looking at it and have said, ‘For the first time ever, I can get affordable health care,’ they don’t oppose it as well.”
Wednesday evening, the new local chapter of Organizing for Action, an Obama advocacy group, had a rally in favor of the Affordable Care Act outside the E. Ross Adair Federal Building, where Coats and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, have their Fort Wayne offices.
The building was closed at the time of the rally, which attracted about 35 people.
“It’s the symbol of the building, what it stands for,” organizer Marsha Brooks said. “It’s the office of Marlin Stutzman.”
Stutzman has been an outspoken proponent of defunding the Affordable Care Act.
“Whether he listens or not, we want him to hear our voices,” Brooks said.