Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a town hall meeting hosted by Heritage Action For America at the Hilton Anatole on August 20, 2013 in Dallas. (Brandon Wade/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON -- Tea Party groups are launching a multistate tour Tuesday aimed at garnering support to defund the national health care law signed by President Obama, ending with a Sept. 10 Capitol Hill rally as Congress returns from summer break.
The Exempt America tour kicks off in Lexington, Ky., aimed at putting pressure on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to support Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky in their effort to withhold government funds to implement the health care law critics deride as "Obamacare."
The Capitol Hill rally - featuring Lee, Cruz and Paul among others - will come just a few weeks before the Oct. 1 launch date for open enrollment under the health care law. On that date, health insurance exchanges will also begin to help people find and buy insurance coverage as the law mandates.
"If these Washington politicians think they can simply go home on summer break and claim they are doing everything they can to get rid of Obamacare, they have another thing coming," said Brent Bozell, chairman of For America, one of the seven Tea Party groups behind the tour.
The Obama administration has pressed forward with the law's implementation, noting a Supreme Court ruling last year that upheld its constitutionality.
The Exempt America tour stops Wednesday in Austin and targets John Cornyn of Texas, the GOP's No. 2 leader, and on Thursday in Jackson, Miss. to put pressure on Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss, a top appropriator. Other stops include Columbia, S.C., on Sept. 3, targeting Sen. Lindsey Graham, and in Richmond, Va., on Sept. 4, aimed at House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
The issue of funding the health care law has divided Republicans, prompting fears of a possible government shutdown.
McConnell and Cornyn are advocating a less aggressive approach than blocking government spending and do not support the efforts by the Tea Party groups and their allies in Congress. Any move to not pay for the health care law's implementation would face a battle in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
House Speaker John Boehner is also opposed to the defunding effort. Eighty Republicans - representing more than one-third of House GOP members - recently sent a letter to Boehner saying they support withholding government funds to implement the law.
Congress has until Sept. 30 to approve year-long spending bills or adopt a temporary measure that would extend government programs into the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
Before the congressional recess began in August, Lee sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a letter saying he and other senators will not support a resolution to fund the government or any appropriations bill if it includes money for the health care law. At least a dozen Republicans have either signed Lee's letter or publicly stated their support.
Cruz recently said that he and his Tea Party-backed allies do not have the votes to block funding for the health care law, but said a "grass-roots tsunami" would help them succeed.
Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, endorsed the anti-Obamacare movement on Tuesday.
"Forced enrollment in Obama's 'Unaffordable Care Act' is weeks away," Palin said in a statement posted by the Senate Conservatives Fund, an organization supporting candidates who buck the GOP establishment. "This beast must be stopped - by not funding it."