U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford conceded Tuesday that language to cut funding for the Affordable Care Act in a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week probably won't make it through the U.S. Senate.
But the former governor said he and fellow House Republicans will continue working to defeat the health insurance law, even if it means shutting down the federal government.
"I wouldn't say definitively, but I would certainly lean in that direction," he said Tuesday after an appearance at Sun City Hilton Head. "I wouldn't vote to shutdown just to shutdown. I'd look at every leverage point possible. I do think that after Oct. 1, it gets very hard to dislodge the Affordable Care Act."
Sanford and other House Republicans on Friday pushed through a measure to fund the government past Oct. 1, while defunding the Affordable Care Act that President Barack Obama has advocated.
The Democratic-controlled Senate, however, is expected to add funding for the health care program back to the bill and return it to the House. That would set up a big decision next week for House Republicans -- accept the Senate bill or trigger a government shutdown on Oct. 1.
Sanford said that since that hasn't happened yet, he cannot say for certain he would oppose the returned bill, though he leans that way.
"Ultimately it comes down to representation," Sanford told a crowd of about 40 people in Sun City. "People don't say, 'How do you think it's going to break in D.C.? I want you to vote that way.' What I'm hearing from folks is, 'We want you to take a stand on this unsustainable trajectory of expenditure.'"
Sanford, who won a special election for the District 1 seat in the U.S. House in May, addressed Sun City residents for more than an hour before moving on to a Hilton Head Island Realtors meeting in Bluffton. He had several engagements in Beaufort County on Tuesday before leaving for Charleston at 3 p.m., his spokesperson said.
Sanford will be in Washington, D.C., today when the House reconvenes.
Sanford said he did not question the intent of the health care law, but was skeptical of the government's ability to implement its provisions, particularly the health care exchanges scheduled to open Oct. 1 and cover the uninsured.
Under the Affordable Care Act, everyone will be required to have health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty.
"All the analysis I've seen says the health care exchanges are not ready for prime time," he said. "So people's lives could really be hurt if you go out with a government program that doesn't have the rules in place to facilitate what they're aimed at."
There are currently 26,700 uninsured people in Beaufort County and 5,725 in Jasper County, according to a U.S. Census Bureau study released earlier this month.
Jim Lee, president of the Republicans of Sun City Hilton Head, said he contacted Sanford's staff last week to set up the meeting and invited Democrats he knew from the gated community.
"I wanted to get as many people here as I could," Lee said. "I want to make sure people know when we have access to a congressman."
Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.