Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker issued statements defending a series of votes Friday to support a House-passed version of a government funding bill and oppose an amendment brought forward by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The votes capped off a week of contentious debate on Capitol Hill regarding the Affordable Care Act. Both Alexander and Corker voted in favor of the continuing resolution as presented, which included language to defund provisions for implementation of the health law.
But after passing the bill, Senate rules allowed Reid to accept amendments to the legislation. With a Democrat-controlled Senate, lawmakers were able to reinsert provisions of the bill to fund Obamacare, sending the bill back to the House once more as the clock ticked toward a deadline of Oct. 1 for final approval.
If House and Senate members cannot draft a resolution and gain additional approval from President Barack Obama, the federal government will be forced to shut down for the first time since 1996.
Alexander said he had no problem supporting the original House legislation, describing the health law as a "historic mistake."
"The bill is now back in the hands of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives," Alexander said in a news release. "I support the original House legislation that continues funding the government but defunds Obamacare. The health care law is a historic mistake that should be delayed, dismantled, repealed and replaced."
Corker, who sparred with Sen. Ted Cruz on the Senate floor before Friday's set of votes, called on the House to craft "good policy."
"I support the House-passed bill to fund the government without funding Obamacare, which is why I voted twice this week to move it forward," Corker said in a news release. "After the defunding portion of the bill was taken out, I voted against passage of the amended bill that funded Obamacare. Now, the House, where Republicans have the majority, can make good policy changes and send something back to the Senate that hopefully will pass both chambers."
Despite their explanation, the senators' votes were still met with criticism. State Rep. Joe Carr, who is a candidate challenging Alexander in next year's Republican primary, said the senator's votes showed "a lack of respect" for the views of Tennesseans.
"We will continue to be the voice of the people and hold Sen. Alexander's feet to the fire on this issue and others," Carr said.
According to a Washington Post report, Republican leaders in the House refrained from offering public comment on Friday's developments, while Reid said Senate Democrats would reject any additional conservative proposals to defund the health law.
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