POLITICS
09/20/2013 02:27 pm ET | Updated Sep 20, 2013

Eric Cantor Singles Out Red State Democrats At Defund Obamacare Rally

WASHINGTON -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) quickly made the Friday vote to defund Obamacare political, singling out four Democratic senators up for reelection in conservative states in 2014.

Speaking at a rally where Republican leaders cheered the House's passage of a government spending bill that would permanently strip funding from the Affordable Care Act, Cantor called out by name each red state Senate Democrat facing reelection: Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Kay Hagan (N.C.). As the majority leader asked what those Democrats were doing to protect their states from Obamacare, audience members cheered loudly and applauded his remarks.

"Many Senate Republicans have promised to leave no stone unturned in fighting for this bill, and all of us here support that effort," Cantor said. "We are calling on Senate Democrats to do the same thing."

"I want to know where Senator Pryor stands on protecting the middle class," he added. "How about Kay Hagan in North Carolina? Does she understand the consequences that Obamacare is having in her state?"

"What about Mary Landrieu of Louisiana?" Cantor continued. "And finally, what about Mark Begich of Alaska? ... Will he vote to keep Obamacare in place?"

The majority leader made similar comments in an appearance on Fox News Thursday, noting that a vote on defunding President Barack Obama's health care law would put those senators in a tough position.

But each senator named at the rally told The Huffington Post on Thursday how they would vote on a continuing resolution that defunded Obamacare. The answer was a resounding "no."

"We're not going through another [vote to repeal Obamacare], 43rd or 44th -- no," Begich told reporters on Capitol Hill, adding that the House should "quit playing games" with funding the government and raising the debt ceiling. "Do I have issues with Obamacare? Yes. We've proposed multiple amendments and ideas to fix it, to make it better and take out things that aren't working ... but we're not going through this process."

Pryor also said he would oppose such a bill. "We voted on Obamacare ... and it's the law of the land. It's been through the Supreme Court," he said. "It's not perfect, but let's work to make it better."

Spokespeople for Hagan and Landrieu also confirmed they would vote against a measure defunding Obamacare.

Cantor spokesman Rory Cooper argued those lawmakers still owed their constituents an answer. "Senate Democrats like Pryor, Landrieu, Hagan and Begich don’t need to tell Huffington Post their position on Obamacare; they need to tell the working men and women in their states who are losing jobs at grocery stores or diners and whose out-of-pocket expenses are going up as a result of this law," Cooper wrote in an email.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and outside groups have sought to make Obamacare a wedge issue in the 2014 races, focusing their attacks on any delays in and roadblocks to the law's implementation by the administration.

On Friday, one reporter quipped that Cantor was "holding an NRSC rally in the Rayburn Room" as the majority leader spoke.

"With all due respect, Eric Cantor's political strategy has transformed him into one of the most unpopular people in the commonwealth of Virginia and all of American politics," said Matt Canter, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "Even Bill O'Reilly calls this what it is."

The House-passed bill now heads to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to strip out the provision that defunds Obamacare and then, once a revised version clears the upper chamber, send it back to the House. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have said they will fight to keep the defund effort alive, although in recent days Cruz has conceded that several of his Republican colleagues are against risking a government shutdown over Obamacare.

Mike McAuliff contributed reporting.

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