Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio announced on Thursday night that he would support a continuing resolution—a spending bill that would keep the government funded through the fiscal year—but only if it strips funding from the Democratic health care law that passed in 2009.
Rubio made the announcement during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, saying he will vote for an amendment to the continuing resolution that defunds the Affordable Care Act. But if that doesn't pass, Rubio said, he won't support the final spending package. (With Democrats in control of the Senate, any move to defund the health care law will be rejected.) The House and Senate must come to an agreement on funding levels by March 27, the date that the last stopgap measure expires, or face a government shutdown.
"If that gets onto the bill, in essence if they get a continuing resolution and we vote on [defunding the Affordable Care Act] and we can pass it onto a bill, I will vote for a continuing resolution, even if it’s temporary," Rubio said.
Given Rubio's record of consistently voting against short-term stopgap measures—the only one he supported was when he first joined the Senate—it won't be surprising when he ultimately rejects the continuing resolution.
The move undoubtedly will win him praise from activist groups on the right. By declining to support the continuing resolution bill without the amendment, Rubio joins a minority of conservative lawmakers who still refuse to extend funding for the government unless funding for the health care overhaul is removed. (Earlier this week, the Republican-led House passed its own version of a continuing resolution that funded the law, and only 14 House Republicans opposed it.)
Rubio's decision offers clues that he intends to brand himself as more of a principled conservative ideologue on this issue than a pragmatist deal maker, a distinction that will matter if he decides to enter the 2016 Republican presidential primary.