Republican Sen. Mike Lee encouraged a constituent at a town hall meeting this week to push fellow Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch to support his effort to block spending bills until Obamacare is defunded.
"I know he's not supporting you in the health care defunding," the questioner asked. "Do you have any influence with Sen. Hatch because it doesn't seem like he's listening to the people out here, and I'd recommend that anybody here that supports you would get on the phone and talk to Sen. Hatch and try to tell him that that's what they want."
Lee emphasized that he would not speak for Hatch and said that they got along well, but he also suggested that constituents could help pressure Hatch.
"The fact that some have not yet signed my letter, and he is one who ... has not, doesn't necessarily indicate where he'll be at the end of the day. There are some members of the Senate who have told me that they'll end up voting the same way I'm going to be voting, but for a variety of reasons tactical and strategic, some of them are choosing not to sign it," said Lee. "I wish they would sign it, I'd love it if they sign it. If you can convince Sen. Hatch to sign the letter, I'll be deeply in your debt."
Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Hatch, responded in an email to Roll Call: "Senator Hatch shares the same passion as Senator Lee when it comes to ObamaCare. The largest expansion of government in generations, Senator Hatch believes it will lead to a single-payer, European-style health care system that Democrats wanted all along. Not only has Senator Hatch repeatedly voted to repeal ObamaCare, but he's put forward legislation repealing the individual and employer mandates, and the medical device and the health insurance taxes," Ferrier said. "He looks forward to continuing to work with all his colleagues to examine every way of stopping ObamaCare — a law that increases health care costs, raises taxes and hurts our economy."
Hatch is the top Republican on the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over much of the health care law.
Lee has been among the leaders of tea-party-backed group of senators pushing to block all funding for the implementation of the health care overhaul in the debate over government funding that looms in September.
"This is not necessarily a battle between Democrats and Republicans, even though it may seem that way. Those who are calling for us to defund and delay Obamacare do happen to be Republicans, but most Republicans aren't out there calling for it. In some respects, one could say this involves a battle not between Democrats and Republicans, but between the long-term political elite establishment of Washington against everyone else in America," Lee said at the town hall in Farmington, Utah, on Wednesday night.
Only a dozen senators signed the initial letter vowing to block spending bills until the 2010 health care law is defunded. But many GOP leaders have said that the effort is misguided because forcing a government shutdown would not end up preventing the health care law from receiving funds. A government shutdown caused by a failure to enact new discretionary spending laws would not affect the mandatory spending, like Obamacare, they have argued.
Lee's office has a live video stream of each town hall meeting he holds. There's also a video archive online here.