Wilmington was the last stop Thursday on nine-city tour designed to rally support for a coming bid in Congress to thwart the Affordable Care Act.
The pitch is to derail the federal health law by cutting its funding.
An advocacy group associated with the Heritage Foundation organized the Defund Obamacare town hall. Mike Needham, CEO of Heritage Action for America, wants to rally locals who will act as “sentinels” in their hometowns and pressure Congress.
“Many members of Congress, including almost every Republican that I know of, committed to their constituents that they would do almost everything they could to stop Obamacare,” Needham said. “There’s a great opportunity coming up right now and it’s really an urgent opportunity.”
Needham termed Oct. 1 a “choke point.” That’s the beginning of open enrollment for the new health insurance marketplaces. It’s also the deadline for the annual continuing resolution in Congress. That’s the yearly budget move that keeps the federal money flowing. Health law opponents want this year’s resolution to explicitly block any funding for the Affordable Care Act.
Needham said American needs a “time out,” and he said several recent delays in the health law implementation show that the health law “is not ready for prime time.”
Supporters do not have the votes they need to force a government slowdown if Congress decliness to cut off Obamacare funding. Still, at the Wilmington town hall, Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation and former South Carolina senator, said he faced similar odds when he supported conservative Pat Toomey’s election bid in Pennsylvania.
“I’ve been told a number of times that things were impossible in Washington; a lot of those are called senators now,” DeMint said. “I went to Pennsylvania and it wasn’t real popular to endorse Pat Toomey against a sitting senator. I was lectured that, ‘You don’t understand, DeMint, Pennsylvania will never vote for Toomey, he’s too conservative.'”
Toomey has long opposed the Affordable Care Act but has said he’s “not convinced” yet that defunding Obamacare – under the threat of a government slowdown – is the right tactic. Observers say that stance reflects a split in the Republican Party over the right strategy to block the bill.
A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that while many American are still unsure about the health law, a clear majority – 57 percent – oppose the bid to cut off funding. Heritage officials say they fielded a poll of their own—and found plenty of support in Republican stronghold districts.
Many at the town hall, including Tony D’Amato, from Middletown, Pa., said despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the law in most aspects, they just don’t think it’s right to force people to buy health insurance.
D’Amato, a certified public accountant who owns his own business in Wilmington, Del., said he has a 22-year-old son.
“There’s no reason for him to get health insurance,” D’Amato said. “If he wants to gamble, then he can gamble.”
Arthur Ellison, a retiree who gets his health insurance through the Medicare program, lives in Smyrna, Del.
“I’m very happy with what I have. I don’t know what Obamacare is, but I don’t want a change because what I need is what I have,” Ellison said. “When I go to see my doctor, I usually have to wait 45 minutes to an hour. I hear that there will be million coming on. That means even longer waits for me, I’m assuming.”