Sen. Lee: Grassroots Will Force GOP Leadership to Help Defund Obamacare

By Curtis Houck | August 1, 2013 | 2:31 PM EDT

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) (AP)

( - Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) acknowledged Wednesday that the Senate Republican leadership "hasn't been helpful" in his ongoing efforts to defund Obamacare. But Lee predicted that as grassroots pressure continues to build and more of their Republican colleagues join him, the GOP leadership will fall in line to reflect the will of the American people.

"Leadership hasn't been helpful on the effort so far, but as rank-and-file members get behind the effort, I suspect leadership will become more helpful,” Lee told  reporters at a press conference before speaking to over 300 college-age libertarian activists at the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) National Convention in Arlington, Va.

"The fact is that the American people are getting behind this effort. We're getting (large) public support for it. If that continues, as I fully expect it will, we'll get more members on board. As we get more members on board, leadership will join us," Lee said.

He was joined at the press conference by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Tenn.), who compared the upcoming congressional battle to the budget negotiations that resulted in the raising of the debt ceiling and the sequester in 2011.

Paul also raised the possibility that if one chamber voted to defund the individual mandate provision in Obamacare through a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government, "maybe the compromise is the whole thing gets delayed because the whole thing's not going to work."

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (AP)

"I know we're against Obamacare, we're for defunding it, and the people at home want us to do something," Paul said. "I can't promise we'll win. Everybody's talking about the endgame, what happens in the end, and we're at the beginning of the gambit. We're at the beginning of what do you stand for, what do we do? The Republicans control the House. I think they ought to vote to defund Obamacare."

Paul reminded reporters that if a group of House and Senate Republicans had not pushed for the measure that became known as "cut, cap, and balance" to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for the passage of a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to balance the federal budget, the series of spending cuts known as the sequester would probably never have come to fruition.

"You think we would have ever gotten the sequester had we not pushed for something better?" he asked.

Twelve Senate Republicans, including Lee and Paul, have said they will not agree to a CR that funds the individual mandate provision of Obamacare. The group signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) stating that "the only way to divert disaster is to fully repeal Obamacare and start over with a more sensible, practical approach to reforming our healthcare system."

Members of Congress anticipate a budget showdown when Congress returns from its August recess. Funding for the federal government is authorized only through September 30th, and the current maximum borrowing amount, or debt ceiling, will be reached soon thereafter.