Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has no regrets about the push he led to defund Obamacare, rejects accusations from the left and right that his group was responsible for the shutdown and says the past few weeks perfectly illustrate why he and other conservatives worked so hard to starve the health-care takeover of funding.
"It was not Republicans who caused this shutdown," Lee told WND. "It was the president and the Senate Democrats who refused the government or any part of it to be funded unless everything, including Obamacare's implementation, was also simultaneously funded. That's not fair. That's not a good faith compromise effort."
He added, "I understand the shutdown was unpopular. The shutdown was also unnecessary. It was never what I wanted. I went out of my way to make avoiding the shutdown a possibility. The shutdown was made a reality by virtue of the fact that the president and Harry Reid refused to negotiate and refused to allow us to fund anything in government unless we were willing to fund everything in government, including a law that they knew would be harming Americans as it now is."
Lee said he, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and others knew the defunding effort was an uphill climb given the balance of power in Congress, but he said there was no other choice than to fight as hard as possible against a law that has already been proven to be a nightmare.
"We fought this, not because we were certain that we could win but because we knew that the consequences of Obamacare taking effect uninhibited, with the president free to rewrite it unconstitutionally and without statutory authorization, would be so dire that we couldn't let that happen without at least trying to stop it," Lee said.
He said Republicans are unified in opposition to Obamacare, and a month filled with exchange "glitches," Americans being dropped from plans they like and sticker shock on new health-care premiums only validate what he, Cruz and other conservatives were trying to prevent.
"We take no pleasure in being proven right, but at the very least the American people now know who is singularly responsible for making the health-care system throughout America more expensive, complex and unfair than it was before," Lee said. "That's the president of the United States, who stands defiantly behind this law, notwithstanding the fact it's hurting people."
So while the initial verdict in opinion polls showed conservatives taking a big chunk of the blame for the shutdown, Lee believes more and more people will see that he and his allies were the ones truly standing up for the American people.
"Ultimately, the verdict on what we did to resist it will be one that vindicates what we did," he said. "It vindicates that we had good reason to try to resist it, notwithstanding the fact we knew that victory was far from certain."
Many Republicans publicly and privately castigated Lee and Cruz as being responsible for a strategy that could not win and cost the party standing with the voters. Some reports even suggest establishment GOP figures in and out of the Utah GOP are trying to recruit a challenger to run again Lee in 2016.
"First of all, that's not true about the Utah Republican Party," Lee said. "The Utah Republican Party stands behind me. Those who are suggesting otherwise are simply mistaken or they're lying."
The deal that ended the partial government shutdown and dodged a breaching of the debt ceiling only funds the government until January and staves off a debt-ceiling showdown until February. So will we see this debate replayed in the next couple of months? Probably not.
Lee said even if the individual mandate were delayed a year, people would still be dealing with a loss of coverage they liked, a major threat to their privacy security and exchanges that show no sign of being functional anytime soon. In short, he believes the showdown in October was the last best chance to derail Obamacare.
"It's difficult to say exactly what we could do at this point," Lee said. "I still think that legislation just suspending the entire thing for a year at a minimum would be in order, but we've now lost our leverage to pass such a thing."
He added, "Unless there is a big change of heart among a lot of members of the House and Senate, it looks like this law is going to take effect. That's really bad news for the American people, who continue to lose their jobs, lose their health care and have their wages and hours cut because of this law."