SALT LAKE CITY — In what ultimately might be more of a statement than reality, Utah congressmen voted Friday to keep the government running but do away with funding for the controversial Affordable Care Act.
The House passed a stopgap resolution 230-189 on Friday to prevent a government shutdown when the new budget year begins Oct. 1. The measure now moves to the Senate, where Democrats will likely strip out the Obamacare language and send it back to the House late next week.
"Republicans are simply postponing for a few days the inevitable choice they must face: Pass a clean bill to fund the government, or force a shutdown," said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. The White House promises President Barack Obama will veto the measure in the unlikely event it reaches his desk.
Utah's three Republican House members — Reps. Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart — issued a joint statement after the vote Friday, saying the resolution not only keeps government working but takes money from "one of the most destructive and expensive laws ever passed."
Defunding and repealing Obamacare, they said, is the first step in fixing the health care system in ways that enhance personal freedom and reduce the role of government.
Rep. Jim Matheson, Utah's lone Democrat in Congress, said he voted for the bill to avoid a shutdown.
"I would prefer more of a straightforward piece of legislation, not one where a number of additional items are added to it. But this was the vote put in front of me and I voted for this package," he said.
Matheson opposes the Affordable Care Act and said his vote was consistent with that.
"But the fundamental issue really is whether we shut down the government or not," he said. "The endgame strategy to keep the government from shutting down is going to have to be pretty much a straightforward bill on a continuing resolution without these other things included."
The state's Republican congressmen called on their colleagues in the Senate to pass the bill as is and send it to the president. "The fight is and has always been in the Senate," they said.
Sen. Mike Lee is among those in the Senate leading the charge to defund the health care act. He applauded the House vote.
"How many more people have to lose their jobs, wages, and health care benefits before Congress acts? How many more states have to announce that premiums are going up before we do something to protect the country? We should not, and will not, allow Senate Democratic leaders to ignore the will of the American people," he said.
The Obama administration strongly opposes the House resolution "because it advances a narrow ideological agenda that threatens our economy and the interests of the middle class."
The bill would deny millions of hard-working middle class families affordable health coverage, according to the White House.
"I think fighting Obamacare in its extreme form is a losing cause for Republicans because they've lost so many times on it, including in the Supreme Court," said Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
The GOP should attack the deficit and specific aspects of the health care law that need reform rather than resort to brinksmanship, he said.
"It seems, at this point, taking a sledgehammer to Obamacare is not going to work," Jowers said. "Taking a scalpel could very well work because even President Obama has acknowledged there are some significant difficulties with this law."
Contributing: Rich Piatt
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