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Interview: Senator Mike Lee Explains the Plan to Defund Obamacare

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: We're happy to welcome to our program Senator Mike Lee from Utah. He's gonna bring us up-to-date on his effort here to lead the Republican Party in the Senate to attempting to defund Obamacare.  Senator, welcome.  Great to have you here.

SENATOR LEE:  Thank you, Rush.  It's a pleasure to be with you.

RUSH:  Tell me and everybody else what you're trying to do because there are now people saying what you want to do can't be done because so much of the spending is locked in.  But I've read, no, that's not true.  And then, second question, I remain perplexed.  I mean, you got a majority of the American people that oppose this, and I don't see the Republican Party trying to connect with them, outside of you and a couple others.  So a lot of this doesn't make any sense to a whole lot of people.

SENATOR LEE:  That's right, it doesn't make any sense to a whole lot of people outside the Washington Beltway.  You see, inside the Washington Beltway, this discussion is controversial.  Outside the Beltway, Obamacare is universally despised.  This is an issue, Rush, that is no longer just about Republican versus Democrat.  It's no longer about liberal versus conservative.  This is about Washington, DC, versus everyone else.  This law is despised because it's gonna make our health care unaffordable.  It's also going to make health care unfair, because the president has said he's gonna hold hardworking Americans to the line and punish them if they don't comply with the law's exacting demands, but he's gonna give a big carve-out for Big Business.  Big Business doesn't have to comply.  The American people shouldn't have to put up with it. The president said he's not ready to implement the law. We shouldn't fund it.

RUSH:  When you say Big Business doesn't have to comply, you're talking about the one-year waiver on the employer mandate?

SENATOR LEE:  That's correct.  The president's selectively enforcing the law in a way that he doesn't have the authority to do.

RUSH:  Isn't that a tantamount admission that the law's punitive and he doesn't want it to be punitive going into an election?

SENATOR LEE:  Yes.  It's punitive, so he looked at that aspect of the law that is the most unpopular with those who can afford lobbyists, the most unpopular with those who have contacts that can get into the White House and get an audience, and so that's what he's doing, is he's throwing this bone out there so that he doesn't get attacked as much within the business community and the lobbyist community.  Meanwhile, he's throwing the rest of us out into this wasteland that is the world of Obamacare.

RUSH:  Well, maybe you can help some of us understand.  Even if the Republican Party does not want to be identified or known as a conservative party, they still are an opposition party.  I don't understand why they're not, even if they believe that what you want to do can't be done, why not make a stand?  Why not stand up and say, "This is who we are. This is what we're for.  This is why this is bad.  This is why we want to repeal it for you." There's a majority of the American people waiting to be connected with.  Why this capitulation with the Democrats, Senator?

SENATOR LEE:  The fact that that question is so difficult to answer is itself a great source of frustration to me, because, look, we have a majority of the representatives in the House and a sizeable plurality of the senators who are against Obamacare, have been since day one.  In the House they voted 39, 40, 41 times to repeal it.  So those of us who say we're against it, those of you who recognize this law's going to be bad for the American people, ought to be willing to stand up and say, "You know, one of the few powers that we still guard jealously within Congress is the power of the purse."  We should simply refuse to fund Obamacare.  We want to fund the rest of government, just not Obamacare.

RUSH:  Senator Mike Lee from Utah with us.  What is being said by the establishment, by Washington, as you describe it, is this.  Look, 98, 99% of Obamacare is autopilot spending. It can't be cut. It is just like any entitlement -- Social Security, Medicare -- we can't stop it.  But wouldn't that be the truth in a normal budgetary process, but we're talking about continuing resolutions here, and doesn't that make that entirely different?

SENATOR LEE:  Well, those who are saying we can't touch this because it's mandatory spending are simply wrong.  They're simply mistaken, or perhaps they've been misinformed.  The point is that Congress can decide to pass any kind of spending bill it wants.  The fact that you've got mandatory spending that's already been authorized for Obamacare's implementation doesn't mean that can't be cut.  We can run this with an amendment -- in fact, an amendment has already been drafted up to make it so that we fund everything else in government but we claw back, we restrict funding for Obamacare, both mandatory and discretionary.

RUSH:  What about the argument that there's no way you're ever going to get 51 votes for this?

SENATOR LEE:  Okay.  So the argument that we're never going to win so we shouldn't even try overlooks the fact that if every Republican who claims to be against Obamacare simply said, "I'm not going to vote to fund Obamacare," we would win.  There would be no way that you could fund Obamacare unless you got some Republicans in the House and some Republicans in the Senate to vote for it.  And so that's why we're encouraging people to get behind this effort, to communicate with their congressman and their senators and to say, "Please don't do this."  And people can find out who is where on this position at a website we set up for this purpose.  It's dontfundobamacare.com.  They can go to dontfundobamacare.com, where they can be directed to the identities of those senators and those representatives who are with us and those who have not yet joined our cause.

RUSH:  Now, one of the people that I've spoken to, not a name person, just somebody that might have some answers at least in terms of understanding Republican establishment motives here, has said to me, "Rush, what they're really worried about is that while it's not popular now, after it's implemented and the subsidies kick in, for a large number of people it is going to liked, like Social Security is, like Medicare is, by the recipients." The subsidies equal Santa Claus and the Republicans don't want to take a stand against it now since it's already the law of the land and they've got enough trouble being perceived as anti- this and anti-poor and anti- you name it, so they don't want to be on record as opposing subsidies or help for people who need it because it isn't gonna help 'em, and they're worried that somewhere down the line public opinion on this is gonna shift and people are gonna end up liking it.

SENATOR LEE:  I think that's right, and I've got two responses to that.  First, Rush, the fact that entitlements, by their very nature, become popular among some of their beneficiaries is not a reason to let this law kick in.  It's a reason to stop it be with because what we discover about entitlements, Rush, is that once they're in place, they're almost impossible to get rid of.  You got death, you got taxes, and you've got entitlements.  So it's better to stop this thing before it kicks in, before it starts, you know, buying some loyalty among those who will never let it go away, than it would be to let it kick in and just hope and expect we can repeal it later.  That becomes much more difficult. 

The other thing to remember on this point that this was a law supposedly passed by, you know, a democratically elected Congress.  Well, in a sense that's true, but we have to remember, Rush, that it's been amended now four times.  It's been amended four times by people who didn't have the authority.  It's been amended twice by the Supreme Court, as I explained in my book, Why John Roberts was Wrong About Healthcare, amended the statute two times in order to make it constitutional, even though they found it wasn't. Two more times by the president who didn't have the power to change it, but still did.

RUSH:  Well, here's the problem a lot of Republican voters have, and people that want to vote Republican, the thinking that people are gonna end up liking it so we don't want to be seen as opposing it. Even if they don't like it now, they might down the line.  A lot of people -- Senator, you might be among them -- think that the country, I don't want to put words in your mouth, that we're hanging by a thread here.  That this country's in the midst  of a purposeful transformation that makes government not just the center of everybody's life, but essential, and people do not want that to happen. They've always thought the Republican Party stood against that, so why not just stand up, even if you're afraid people might end up liking it, the fact that it's not good for the country to make even more people totally dependent on government for another aspect of their lives.  It simply is not good for the country or for them.  Why can't that be said and have it said aggressively and compassionately and use that to attract voters and grow the party?

SENATOR LEE:  The biggest single reason why that's not being said at this point is because we don't yet have enough members of Congress, in the House and in the Senate, who have seen the electoral benefits, the political benefits that will come from making the right policy choice.  We see that good politics necessarily flow from good policy.  The right policy here is to stop this horrible law before it steps in and makes life worse for nearly all Americans, for the vast majority of Americans.  If we undertake the right policy, which is to stop Obamacare by any means possible, then we will benefit as a party, because that's what the American people elected us to do.  By the same token, if we don't do that, we're in huge trouble as a party because we were put into power in the House of Representatives after the 2010 election because of Obamacare.  We were put into power to stop Obamacare.

RUSH:  Exactly!  The 2010 midterms, and Obama is out campaigning today trying to sell Obamacare, which is already the law of the land.  Why is he doing that?  Because he doesn't want a repeat in 2014 of what happened in 2010.  They want to win the House.  And there's no push-back, Senator, other than you. Can you give me some other names that have joined you in this?

SENATOR LEE:  Sure.  So in the Senate, we've got a number of people that have joined. I was pleased to be joined by Marco Rubio, by Ted Cruz, by Rand Paul, John Thune, Mike Enzi.  We have Chuck Grassley on there as well. Mike Crapo, Republican senator from Idaho, just joined yesterday.  He's our latest edition.  We've got a total of 13.  We've got about 70 in the House that have signed a similar pledge.  And we're building these numbers every day. We're building because as people become aware of this effort they will get there.  We've also got Mike Enzi and we also have Jeff Chiesa from New Jersey.  I was just told by my staff that within the last day or so the House of Representatives has risen to the level of about a hundred. There are a hundred members of the House of Representatives that have now joined with us, and these numbers are building every single day because the American people are speaking out.

RUSH:  We have Senator Mike Lee from Utah with us. He's in studio, not actually on the phone, which is why it doesn't sound like he's on the phone.  Senator, another argument that is made is the dreaded government shutdown argument, that you can't get where you want to go in the continuing resolution fight without a government shutdown.  And then they say, "Look what happened in '95.  We got killed.  '95 ruined us." In reality we only got killed in the media.  We picked up two Senate seats after the '95 shutdown. And the House, I don't think there was great damage. Plus, that budget fight arguably could be said to have set the table for great policy that followed, such as welfare reform that Clinton signed, because it involved people taking a stand.  But it's looked at as a debacle because of the impact it supposedly had on Newt, but it really wasn't.  You're fighting a tremendous obstacle there with this fear if there's a government shutdown, that the Republicans are finished.  So what do you say to people who have that obstacle in front of them?

SENATOR LEE:  Okay.  So, in the first place, I want to be very clear that what I'm calling for is not a shutdown.  I don't want a shutdown. I don't think we need a shutdown. We ought to be able to fund the government responsibly without a shutdown.  What I'm saying is that we ought to fund government, just not Obamacare.  We shouldn't have to vote for all of it, including Obamacare, or have none of it.  That's crazy.  Secondly, if we signal in advance that no matter what we're going to fund Obamacare, that's the best way to make that happen. And so that's not the signal we should be sending.  Finally, if we get enough people who are on board in the house and in the Senate who have expressed concerns about Obamacare and are willing to say "I'm going to vote to fund government, but not Obamacare" you then put Harry Reid in the position, the untenable position of having to say because we didn't get everything we wanted, even though you funded every other program in government, even the programs Republicans hate, we're gonna shut down the government in the Democratic Party because you didn't include funding for Obamacare.  That's a terrible position for him to be in. I don't think he wants to fight that fight, and, frankly, I don't think he can win that fight.

RUSH:  Where are the Democrats on your effort?  I know publicly, if asked, they would say that your task is hopeless and it's not serious, but where are they really?  It seems to me that if you've got this increasing number of signatories, essentially, if your support is growing every day, is there some legitimate worry on the Democrat side that you could pull this off?

SENATOR LEE:  Deep down yes, I think there is, and that's one of the reasons why they're more than happy to have fellow Republicans be at the tip of the spear and the attack against this effort. And, look, I want to make clear, I am fully aware of the fact that the Washington establishment is not happy with me about this effort.  I'm fully aware of the fact that many within the Washington establishment from my own party hate this effort.  But the fact that they're against it simply tells me that I must be doing something right.  Meanwhile, the Democrats are thrilled that we've got Republicans doing their bidding on this, fighting against this effort, and you've got Republicans essentially saying "Yeah, no matter what, we're gonna fund Obamacare."  That's a problem.  Because we've got to be the party that is not just the conservative party, but also the opposition party --

RUSH:  Well, that's it.

SENATOR LEE:  -- the party that's standing for the people and the people's rights.

RUSH:  That's what nobody sees.  We don't see an opposition party, Senator, other than random individuals like you and Senator Cruz, occasionally Senator Rubio. There's no push-back whatsoever. Did I just hear you say that there are -- I think I did -- there's some Democrats that really hope that Obamacare would be defunded, but they can't publicly say so, but they hope it happens so that they don't have something harming them in their reelection campaign?

SENATOR LEE:  You know, you did not hear me say that just a minute ago.  I have wondered in the past whether there might be some who would secretly be relieved if that happened, because I think there is a lot of vulnerability on the Democratic side of the aisle due to the fact that Obamacare, again, is not just controversial.  It is despised outside of the Washington, DC, Beltway area, and we've got to stop it, and I think the American people are with us.  The wind's at our backs on this.  We've just gotta convince those who are here in Washington to do the right thing.

RUSH:  Now, is the fight over immigration reform at all affecting your fight?  Because it's much the same.  There are some Republicans that are under pressure here to fight the amnesty or pathway to citizenship mode, is that overlapping or is that of no concern to you right now as it relates to Obamacare?

SENATOR LEE:  You know, as it relates to Obamacare, that seems to be having little or no effect, and, you know, I'm very grateful to have on our side of this issue, Marco Rubio, who was on the opposite side of where I was and a lot of people were with regard to the immigration debate.  So, so far, those two issues seem to have been kept in completely separate vessels; they haven't impacted each other.

RUSH:  Okay.  Senator Mike Lee from Utah, thanks very much, sir.  I appreciate your explaining this.  And the big thing is, I guess the take-away is the people who were saying that the spending is mandatory and cannot be removed, that's not correct?

SENATOR LEE:  It's not true.  As much as they might wish that were the case, it is not.

RUSH:  All right, Senator Lee, thank you very much.  It's great to have you.

SENATOR LEE:  Thank you.

RUSH:  Mike Lee from Utah.

END TRANSCRIPT

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