WASHINGTON—In a strong rebuke of President Obama and his domestic agenda, all 242 House Republicans voted Wednesday to repeal the Asteroid Destruction and American Preservation Act, which was signed into law last year to destroy the immense asteroid currently hurtling toward Earth.
The $440 billion legislation, which would send a dozen high-thrust plasma impactor probes to shatter the massive asteroid before it strikes the planet, would affect more than 300 million Americans and is strongly opposed by the GOP.
"The voters sent us to Washington to stand up for individual liberty, not big government," Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said at a press conference. "Obama's plan would take away citizens' fundamental freedoms, forcing each of us into hastily built concrete bunkers and empowering the federal government to ration our access to food, water, and potassium iodide tablets while underground."
"We believe that the decisions of how to deal with the massive asteroid are best left to the individual," King added.
Repealing the act, which opponents have branded 'Obamastroid,' has been the cornerstone of the GOP agenda since the law's passage last August. Throughout the 2010 elections, Republican candidates claimed that the Democrats' plan to smash the space rock and shield citizens from its fragments was "a classic example of the federal government needlessly interfering in the lives of everyday Americans."
"This law is a job killer," said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who argued the tax increases required to save the human species from annihilation would impose unbearably high costs on businesses. "If we sit back and do nothing, Obamastroid will result in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs, which we simply can't afford in this economy."
"And consider how much money this program will add to our already bloated deficit," Foxx continued. "Is this the legacy we want to leave our children?"
Many GOP members have also criticized the legislation for what they consider pork-barrel spending, claiming the act includes billions in "giveaways" to NASA, nonperishable food manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies contracted to produce mass volumes of vitamin D supplements in the likely event that dust from the asteroid's impact blots out the sun for a decade.
In an effort to counter Republicans' claims, Democrats have asserted that the long-term benefits of preventing the United States from being incinerated by an explosion several billion times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb would far outweigh the initial monetary outlay.
In support of their position, Democrats have pointed to estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that show repealing the law could result in a loss of up to $14 trillion in the nation's GDP.
"I will be the first to admit this is not a perfect bill, by any means," said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who has argued that the measure does not go far enough in deflecting the ensuing debris that will rain down on Earth once the asteroid has been destroyed. "But it is absolutely a bill that each and every American needs now if we want to move forward as a country."
According to political pundits, the showdown over whether to let the asteroid blast a 150-mile-wide, 20-mile-deep crater in the Earth's crust represents a potential turning point for the nation, and could completely reshape the American political landscape for many centuries to come.
"If efforts to destroy the asteroid are successfully overturned, then there will be major ramifications for both Obama and his Republican opposition, as well as the American populace at large," political scientist Alan Abramowitz said on Face The Nation Sunday. "This could have a huge impact come 2012."
With repeal rhetoric reaching a crescendo, the president used his weekly radio address Saturday to state his case for destroying the one-trillion-ton asteroid before it barrels into Earth at 60,000 miles per hour.
"I am more than willing to work with my Republican colleagues to improve the Asteroid Destruction Act," Obama said. "But let me be clear: Repeal is not an option."
"While I recognize that intelligent minds may disagree on this issue, I believe we have an obligation to prevent our citizens from having their flesh seared off in a global firestorm that transforms our planet into a broiling molten wasteland," Obama added. "I think Americans deserve better."