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By BECKY BOHRER
JUNEAU — U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Wednesday that she’s been "deluged" with comments from constituents in recent days, overwhelmingly urging her to support House-led efforts to defund President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
But the Republican told reporters Congress wouldn’t be getting rid of the law by defunding it for the upcoming fiscal year — as the House has proposed — and she said a government shutdown isn’t the way to go, either. Her comments came hours after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, ended a marathon talking session in which he railed against the health care law.
Murkowski called it an "interesting display of one person’s passion," but said if people watched his speech and thought he was getting rid of the health care law, they were mistaken.
What is playing out in Washington, she said, "is an effort to clearly raise the profile in terms of why the Affordable Care Act is not working, why we really haven’t worked to reform health care. But does it solve the problem that we’re dealing with? No, it really doesn’t."
Murkowski said there are problems with the law that need to be addressed and she wants to find solutions. She supports efforts such as delaying the individual mandate to buy insurance but said she isn’t sure if the Senate will be given a chance to vote on that.
The House last week passed legislation that would continue funding the federal government through mid-December. But is also includes a provision to defund the health care law. That provision is expected to be stripped in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, supported that measure, though he said Wednesday he supports keeping the government open. He said a government shutdown would hurt a lot of his constituents and "really doesn’t gain a whole lot because eventually it will be reopened."
He said if members of Congress want to defund the health care law, they should tie it to the upcoming debate over whether to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. He said he would be reluctant to vote to raise the debt ceiling without that kind of provision attached.
The lone Democrat in Alaska’s congressional delegation, Sen. Mark Begich, said tying efforts to defund the health care law to the debt limit and funding of government "are reckless and extreme distractions that keep us from the business of the country which includes paying our bills."
"The American people want Congress to lay out a responsible budget, focus on creating jobs, and quit putting the debt at risk and causing our economy that’s moving in the right direction to falter," he said in a statement.