GOP may delay Obamacare in a play to conservative base
Last Updated: 2013-08-23 07:58 | Xinhua
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U.S. Republicans know they will never reverse President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, but their leaders may opt to delay the law's implementation in a bid to shore up their conservative base before the 2014 mid-term Congressional elections, experts said.

While budget talks, the debt ceiling, and tax reform top Congress's agenda for fall, what is grabbing media attention most is the looming fight over Obama's health care overhaul, with some lawmakers of the Republican Party (GOP) calling to pull the plug on funding for the president's landmark legislation.

The law's supporters argue the reforms will insure an additional 30 million Americans, but opponents decry the law as a jobs killer that will push up insurance premiums and have many additional unintended economic consequences.

Citing those arguments, GOP Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio and other Tea Party lawmakers have made calls to shut down the government if their demands to block Obamacare's implementation are not met.

But Obama will never sign legislation reversing his landmark healthcare overhaul, which he and the law's supporters believe is a historical achievement, analysts said.

GOP House leaders won't allow a government shutdown, especially at a time when the party is trying to change its image after losing November's presidential elections, Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.

Still, they may opt to delay Obamacare's implementation in a bid to play to their conservative base in the lead-up to the 2014 mid-term elections, as most open senate seats are located in GOP strongholds, he said.

"That way they'll have stuck with their principles ... so they can go back in 2014 as they try to win elections and say 'look, we stuck by our principles, we can't defund Obamacare, (even though) we'd love to,'" O'Connell said.

Darrell West, a senior fellow at the think tank Brookings Institution, told Xinhua that while Republicans are talking tough on raising the debt ceiling, they have very little leverage other than forcing a government shutdown.

But if they do so, they will take the blame, he warned.

"Government sends out Social Security checks and Republicans will look bad if they keep people from getting needed help," he cited as an example of the impacts of shuttering the government.

Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, said the GOP is split between its leadership, who sees no advantage in forcing a government shutdown, and freshmen and the Tea Party members, who see a government closure as preferable to Obamacare.

"The Republican Party is now in a very painful process of soul- searching. It now has to face some very contradictory elements within the big tent, i.e. social conservatives versus libertarians, Tea Party versus establishment Republicans," Mahaffee told Xinhua.

He added that GOP lawmakers are in a "permanent primary" as a coalition of groups are ready to challenge any incumbent who appears to be making a deal with Democrats or the president.

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