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Mike Lee: No govt. shutdown, but Obamacare still in crosshairs

Published: Monday, July 29 2013 3:56 p.m. MDT

Sen. Michael S. Lee, R-Utah, right, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, questions Edith Ramirez, chair of the Federal Trade Commission. At left is Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

J. Scott Applewhite, AP

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When Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, appeared on Fox News Sunday to talk about his push to defund the Affordable Care Act, he conceded there will be no threat of a government shutdown in the forthcoming debt ceiling negotiations over Obamacare.

“We all know the government is going to get funded,” Lee told Fox News Sunday, per reports from multiple news outlets. “The only question is whether the government gets funded with Obamacare or without.”

After the senator’s Fox News Sunday appearance, Washington Post political reporter Aaron Blake described Lee as “one of the Senate’s leading conservatives” and added, “The risk of a shutdown has been a pretty major bargaining chip for Republicans in past debt ceiling debates, as the party has suggested it might allow a shutdown if it doesn’t get the spending cuts it wants.”

The conciliatory tone Lee conveyed on Sunday amounted to a nuanced departure from what he had said six days earlier on the same Fox News network: “If Republicans in both houses simply refuse to vote for any continuing resolution that contains further funding for further enforcement of Obamacare, we can stop it, we can stop the individual mandate from going into effect.” Although Lee never actually used the words “government shutdown” during his July 22 appearance on Fox News, his comments sparked headlines such as “Mike Lee: Republicans will shut down government to block Obamacare” (Huffington Post), and “Sen. Mike Lee Threatens Government Shutdown Over Obamacare” (Real Clear Politics).

Late last week, the Deseret News’s Lisa Riley Roche wrote about Lee’s desire to defund Obamacare: “Lee acknowledged he may not end up with enough support to stop funding for the president's health care law, but said he has to try anyway. ‘Sometimes in Washington, you have to stake out a position even when you're in the minority, even when you're a member of a minority within a minority,’ Lee (said).”

EMAIL: jaskar@desnews.com

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