SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah was one of only two Democrats who crossed party lines to vote for legislation to eliminate funding for the 3-year-old health care law and simultaneously prevent a partial government shutdown.
Matheson said he voted for the bill even though he thinks the GOP legislative strategy of trying to scuttle President Barack Obama’s health care law by threatening a government shutdown is irresponsible.
The Republican-controlled House approved the measure by a 230-189 vote on Friday.
Matheson, the lone Democrat in Utah’s congressional delegation, noted he opposes the Affordable Care Act and his main goal is keeping the government operating. He assumed the Senate would restore the funding, forcing the House to take up the issue again.
He preferred a bill that extends government funding at current levels, while the parties continue negotiating a broader spending deal.
“This (vote) reflects my position on both of those issues,” Matheson told The Salt Lake Tribune. “We should avoid shutting down the government. I think we ought to keep our eye on that prize.”
Utah’s three Republican House members — Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart — issued a joint statement saying the bill not only keeps government working but eliminates funding from “one of the most destructive and expensive laws ever passed.”
They urged their colleagues in the Senate to pass the bill as is and send it to the president.
The Obama administration opposes the House measure, saying it would deny millions of hard-working middle-class families affordable health care coverage.
“I think fighting Obamacare in its extreme form is a losing cause for Republicans because they’ve lost so many times on it, including in the Supreme Court,” Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, told the Deseret News.
The GOP should attack the deficit and specific aspects of the health care law that need reform rather than resort to brinksmanship, he added.
“It seems, at this point, taking a sledgehammer to Obamacare is not going to work,” Jowers said. “Taking a scalpel could very well work because even President Obama has acknowledged there are some significant difficulties with this law.”
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