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Blunt elevates his anti-Obamacare stance as Senate prepares to debate House defunding effort

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 24, 2013 - U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., announced Tuesday that he will vote for the House-passed continuing budget resolution that seeks to defund the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – signaling a harder line, compared to his comments last week.

Last week, Blunt had emphasized that he opposed Obamacare, but observed that it would tough to win Senate passage of the House legislation that links defunding the program to the budget measure. Today, he didn’t mention the resolution’s chances in the Senate – but made clear his support.

Blunt’s stance is in line with Missouri’s six Republicans in the U.S. House, who all voted last week in favor of the continuing resolution, with the anti-Obamacare language. (Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, also have double-downed on their opposition to the program.)

The heightened Republican criticism comes just a week before a key provision of the new law -- the health insurance exchanges -- begin operation.

"This week, I'll continue that fight by supporting the House-passed continuing resolution, which defunds Obamacare and keeps the government open without increasing federal spending,” Blunt said in a statement. “I will vote to begin debate on this bill and move to final passage on the House-passed CR (continuing resolution). I will also vote against any attempts by the majority leader to restore funding for Obamacare.”

Pointing to Senate Democrats, Blunt continued, “My colleagues on the other side of the aisle face an important decision this week: They can stand with the overwhelming majority of Americans who have rejected Obamacare, or they can stand with Leader Reid and President Obama. I hope Senate Democrats will work with Republicans to defund this flawed law and replace it with common-sense health care solutions."

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has toughened her stance as well – on the opposing side.

She sent out an email Tuesday to Democratic allies, asserting that "I don't think elected officials should throw temper tantrums when they lose elections. Republicans shouldn't threaten to punish the American people by shutting down the government and refusing to pay the bills just because they didn't get 100 percent of what they want."

Her missive included footage of her appearance on  Sunday talk shows, where she offered some of the same condemnation of “tantrums,’’ saying the GOP can't get over its failure to win the White House or Senate last year with a message that included a promise to repeal the ACA.

"The American people had a choice last November," she said on "Fox News Sunday." "They had a choice between someone who said repeal Obamacare, and President Obama."

McCaskill’s comments appeared to refer to the House’s continuing budget resolution, as well as a possible new fight within a few weeks over the Obama administration’s request to raise the debt ceiling. Some Republicans want to link their anti-Obamacare quest to that legislation as well.

McCaskill also made a point, on TV and in today's email, of jabbing Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who took to the Senate floor Tuesday in an attempt to slow the Senate proceedings.

(Update) U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., joined in the Cruz-bashing on Wednesday.

"There are fifty million Americans without health insurance and others with health insurance that isn’t there when they need it. People are looking to us to make sure that the marketplace works for them, and that the competition works for them. That’s what this is about,” Durbin said.

“The sad reality is that Senator Cruz and the Tea Party Republicans would rather shut down the government of the United States than give these protections to American families."

Durbin also cited Tuesday's announcement by the state of Illinois that the health insurance exchange, which gets underway Oct. 1, will result in lower premium costs than some had anticipated. (End of update)

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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