A traveling conservative Republican effort to force a budget showdown over the Affordable Care Act comes to Pittsburgh tonight, about two weeks before Congress reconvenes to debate federal spending and one month before the Obamacare law starts coming to life.
At 7 p.m., the Sheraton Station Square will play host to the penultimate "Defunding Obamacare" town hall meeting being held in nine cities around the country by Heritage Action, the activist wing of the conservative Heritage Foundation headed by former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina. The road show also is spurring Democratic counterprotests in favor of the law, in the ramp-up to the Oct. 1 launch of health insurance enrollment for those without coverage.
Heritage is pressuring like-minded members of Congress to hold off approval of all new federal spending by the Sept. 30 deadline unless funding for Obamacare programs is stripped out. U.S. senators, including Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marco Rubio, R-Florida -- who are also eyeing their party's 2016 presidential nomination -- are aiding the push, and one-third of House Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus of Sewickley, have signaled their support.
The Democratic-controlled Senate and President Barack Obama will not agree to cut funding to Mr. Obama's signature piece of legislation, meaning a budget standoff with the GOP-controlled House could lead to a government shutdown. That has opponents, including the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill, worrying the move would damage the nation's economy and the GOP's image with voters.
Supporters of the health care law see the fight as a way to draw attention to its popular parts, including free preventive care, and guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing health problems and young adults on their parents' plans. They also are bracing for months more of wrestling over implementation of the law.
After enrollment in health care plans begins Oct. 1, the next big step comes in 2014, when the individual mandate -- the requirement that most Americans have insurance or face fines -- kicks in.
In Pittsburgh the counterdemonstrations began Monday, when some 60 people rallied in favor of Obamacare outside the Station Square offices of U.S. Sen Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
A Quinnipiac University poll of Pennsylvania voters performed in March found 53 percent against the 2010 law, with 37 percent in favor. Some 40 percent of respondents said the law will hurt them, 13 percent said it will help and 42 percent said it will have no effect.
Tim McNulty: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1581.