After 42 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, at least one House Republican is fed up with all of the "show votes."
"I am tired of exhibition season and we have had 42 exhibition games," says Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., one of the most ardent critics of Obamacare. "Everyone cheers, but it doesn't count."
As House Republicans prepare to enter yet another round of budget battles with the White House this fall, GOP leaders had considered using the one more repeal vote to get members to lay off their push to defund Obamacare entirely, but it may not work.
"If you know it is going nowhere in the Senate, we are just wasting our time," Huelskamp says. "It is completely unclear what their strategy is other than 'let's not fight now.'"
By the end of September, Congress must pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded. The deadline collides with the opening of the health care exchanges, a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's signature health care legislation. Huelskamp and a coalition of Republicans worked during the recess to drum up support to defund Obamacare in the upcoming government funding bill, arguing it could be the final opportunity to stop the Affordable Care Act. Constituents ate it up at town hall meetings, but leaders are not prepared to risk a government shutdown over an ideological battle they cannot win.
The White House and Senate Democrats have already promised to vote against or veto any continuing resolution that includes plans to defund Obamacare. And if the government were to shut down, polling shows Americans would blame Republicans.
House leaders are floating multiple proposals in an attempt to see what will appease their rank-and-file. But the underlying case leaders are making is that the debt ceiling, not the continuing resolution will be the moment to fight Obamacare.
The political rift, however, stretches beyond leaders and their members. Tea party voters are also fed up with GOP leadership, according to a Pew Research poll released Wednesday.
Since February, the popularity of leaders has dropped by 15 points. Today, 71 percent of tea party voters disapprove of leadership's job performance. And conservative PACs are well aware of the groundswell of disapproval. They are planning on using the momentum in the 2014 elections.
Club for Growth, for example, which poured nearly $18 million into the 2012 election, says they are watching the vote on the CR and debt ceiling closely.
"Votes matter and we keep score," says Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth. "Republican primary voters are overwhelmingly in favor of defunding Obamacare and we engage in primaries from time to time."
In a meeting with House Republicans Tuesday, the National Review reported House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., promised his caucus that if they voted to pass a clean continuing resolution, he would give them an extra repeal vote and would consider fighting to delay the implementation of Obamacare for one year during the mid-October debt ceiling fight.
Huelskamp called leadership's attempt to delay the political showdown on the debt ceiling "hocus pocus."
"Oct. 1 is a real deadline. It is a takeoff point for the full threat of Obamacare," Huelskamp says. "The idea that they are going to reel that back later seems like a very unlikely prospect."