WASHINGTON (AFP) – Senator Lindsey Graham warned fellow Republicans Tuesday that threatening a government shutdown over defunding President Barack Obama’s health care law may come back to haunt the party next year.
Congress is struggling to approve a stopgap federal spending bill that keeps the doors of government open after the current fiscal year ends on September 30.
The House of Representatives last week passed a contentious measure that funds government operations at current levels through December 15, but which also strips the three-year-old health care law, known as “Obamacare,” of all its funding.
“This is about taking a legislative proposal, the signature issue of the president, and asking him to walk away from it. I just don’t see that being the best tactic,” Graham told reporters.
The Democratic-held Senate holds a crucial test vote on the issue Wednesday, and several Republicans including the party’s top two leaders in the chamber have abandoned efforts by conservative Senator Ted Cruz to block the vote.
“Defunding Obamacare is a goal all Republicans share, but the tactics we employ in achieving that goal can have a backlash,” Graham added.
Mid-term elections will be held November 2014, and the fight over Obamacare is set to figure prominently.
Democrats have spoken of their ambitious efforts to take back control of the House, while Republicans argue that a more plausible result could be their gaining a majority in the 100-member Senate by winning back five seats.
“There’s a belief that getting the majority in 2014 is possible, and we don’t want to go down roads that make it harder,” Graham said. “If you’re northeastern Senators Kelly Ayotte (of New Hampshire) and Susan Collins (Maine), you’re in kind of a purple state, this is not a good political dynamic for you.”
While Collins, known for crossing the political aisle more often than her conservative colleagues, stressed that Graham does not speak for her, she agreed that it is “poor policy” to threaten a shutdown.
“We have an obligation to govern, and it does not make sense to link defunding of Obamacare — much as I’d like to see that come about — with a measure that’s essential to keep government functioning,” she said.
Democrats meanwhile have suggested they want to shorten the length of the stopgap funding measure by one month, to November 15, to get Congress to more quickly work out a long-term budget deal.