Farmington • Some people use summer vacations to tell scary stories around campfires. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, told a standing-room-only crowd Wednesday that he has spent his August recess listening to horror stories told by Utahns at town hall meetings about Obamacare.
"People are telling me that their hours [at work] are being cut as a result of Obamacare. Another is that ‘my employer is firing people because of Obamacare,’ " or that health care premiums "are going to go way up," he said. "Obamacare is making health care less affordable instead of more."
Lee said he is scared even more by other recent moves by President Barack Obama, including considering war with Syria without congressional permission. Then he made a scary threat himself, hinting Obama could face impeachment if he proceeds.
"There will be consequences," he said. "He has no right to put our brave men and women in harm’s way" unilaterally. While he didn’t say exactly what those consequences will be, he noted that Vice President Joe Biden — when he was a senator —said "he would call for impeachment proceedings on a then-Republican president if that president went to war without congressional authorization."
All that made the crowd of hundreds at the Davis County offices — in one of the most Republican counties in the state — cheer almost everything Lee uttered in one of his series of town hall meetings.
But a central point of what Lee stressed was his own war on Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and his call for Congress not to pass a continuing resolution to fund the rest of the government if it also funds that law.
Lee denied he was encouraging or even threatening a strategy to shut down the government. "Obamacare needs to be funded or not funded on its own merits," not on how badly the government needs other items in the massive funding bill that keeps the government running. He said he wants funding for the program to be considered separately.
"Those who are calling this a shutdown threat are saying themselves that they would be willing to shut down the government" to preserve the Affordable Care Act. "They are saying, you either fund Obamacare or we’re not going to let you fund national defense or transportation priorities or any other federal program. That’s not fair."
He added, "What I’m saying is this is a big, new program. It needs to be funded or not funded on its own merits, not on the merits of everything else."
When some in the audience asked Lee what he thought of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, not supporting his call so far, he said they were friends and would let Hatch speak for himself. But then he added that the fight over Obamacare could be considered "a battle not between Democrats and Republicans, but between the long-term political elitist establishment of Washington and everyone else."
The national conservative group FreedomWorks has been urging supporters nationally to demand more town halls during the August recess by Congress so they can voice support for Lee’s move to block funding for the Affordable Care Act.
Hatch is among members who are holding no such meetings, and a spokeswoman said he decided to take a break from them after holding numerous meetings with voters last year during his last campaign.
Announcing that drive for more town halls to support Lee — so members might hear the horror stories Lee says he hears — FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said, "Most members of Congress have stopped engaging constituents and defending their policy initiatives. That’s the real outrage here, the inside-the-beltway resistance to a participatory process where people have a voice."
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