“I believe that we have a moment, in the next 60 days, where if we come together that the American people can stop Obamacare,” [Ted Cruz] said. “Obamacare isn’t working. The wheels are falling off. The lead Senate author, Democrat Max Baucus, described Obamacare as a ‘major train wreck.’ The head of the Teamsters, James Hoffa, said that Obamacare is destroying the 40-hour work week that is the foundation of the American middle class, and even President Obama was forced to delay the employer mandate until after the next election because it’s going so badly that the Democrats are afraid of electoral accountability.”
Cruz said that Obamacare can be defunded entirely in the next 60 days, noting that he has launched a website, Dontfundit.com, to get the American people involved. He said that 41 Senate Republicans and 218 Republicans in the House need to stand together and declare that they will not vote for any resolution that funds a penny of Obamacare. The continuing resolution that currently funds the government expires September 30, hence the 60-day window.
Cruz predicted that President Obama and the Democrats would blame Republicans for “shutting down the government,” which has many Republicans in Washington “scared.” He says the House Republicans should pass a continuing resolution that funds the entire government, except for Obamacare. The Democrats will then scream that the “mean, nasty Republicans” are shutting down the government, but the reality will be that it will be Democrats threatening a shutdown in order to “force Obamacare down the throats of the American people.”
“There are a lot of Republicans who are scared. They are scared of being beaten up politically,” Cruz said Monday on Glenn Beck’s radio show…
But calling members of his own party “scared” on a contentious issue that has already riled up Senate Republicans is a perilous move. Now, his colleagues who oppose his plan will be peppered with questions about whether fear is a factor in their decision — something they surely will not appreciate.
On the one hand, Cruz further bolsters his conservative bona fides and cred on the right. On the other, he risks alienating himself from other GOP senators on an issue that has only fueled the perception that congressional Republicans are at odds with one another.
“In the short-term, if you’re going to threaten a shutdown you have to go in committed to winning,” Coburn spokesman John Hart told the Washington Examiner, “You want to seize the high ground early and pick the hill or hills to die on.”
Coburn simply does not believe that a full defunding of Obamacare is the right hill to die on. Obama would never sign it…
“I’m getting phone calls from Oklahoma saying, ‘Support Mike Lee,’” Coburn told the Washington Examiner‘s Byron York last week, “and I’m ramming right back: Support him in destroying the Republican party?”
Heritage Action, however, believes they are only expanding the range of possible positive outcomes for the inevitable government shutdown fight. “If Republicans spend the next two months making the case to the American people that we need to defund Obamacare, we could achieve a lot,” Heritage Action communication director Dan Holler tells the Washington Examiner. “On the other hand, if they listen to Karl Rove and Tom Cole and shy away from the fight on Obamacare, it is all but certain these massive new entitlements will come online starting January 1.”
The effort by conservatives in the House and Senate to threaten a government shutdown over Obamacare could force Speaker John A. Boehner into the arms of House Democrats.
With 60 Republicans already pushing Boehner to defund Obamacare in any spending bill, the speaker may not be able to cobble together a House majority on a bill that President Barack Obama would sign without Democratic votes. And he’s not likely to get those votes for free…
“Even if you shut down the government, Obamacare will continue to be funded, and all you will have accomplished in that scenario is a government shutdown,” a senior Republican appropriations aide said…
The question for Boehner is whether he will initially include an Obamacare defunding rider as a sop to conservatives to get a bill to the Senate — knowing full well that the Senate would then amend the bill, stripping the Obamacare rider and perhaps adding more spending to boot.
Republicans can and should adopt a strategy where full-defunding is simply an opening gambit rather than a final demand. This is a disagreement about tactics, not aim – the vast majority of Republicans are committed to repeal, but know it’s impossible before 2017. So this is about optics, not policy. Focus the issues on spending. You can start big and go smaller – passing a continuing resolution with a Balanced Budget Amendment and Obamacare defunding to emphasize the spending side and the costs of implementation; then one with a delay of all 2014 provisions, emphasizing the lack of protections to prevent fraudulent access to taxpayer subsidies; then one with just a one year delay of the individual and employer mandates… half of which the administration is already doing anyway. The White House is delaying for employers but not individuals? Even the worst populist can make this argument, where the White House’s policy is unpopular even with Democrats.
Will this strategy result in a delay? Probably not, but that’s not the real aim: softening the ground for full repeal, emphasizing the uncertainty of the law’s implementation, and using this can-kicking CR exercise to make a clear point: that it’s the president’s hubris driving implementation of a law no one – not even its implementers in blue states – think is ready for prime time.
The only leverage Republicans conceivably have here is the ability to cause a government shutdown. But that’s the leverage of a man surrounded by cops with a gun pointed at his own head. Some might like the idea of a government shutdown, but it still wouldn’t get Republicans any closer to actually defunding Obamacare, becauase they’d lose the inevitable confrontation. There would be a big political showdown, which would almost certainly backfire against Republicans…
To some extent, this is an example of bad tactics and desperation. No one really thinks it will work. Not even most supporters. But it’s indicative of the GOP’s deeper strategic pickle when it comes to opposing Obamacare, and fighting health policy battles generally. The GOP coalition has agreed on opposition to Obamacare since the law’s passage. But when it comes to health policy, that’s really the only thing that the party has been able to unite around. And a big part of the reason is that Republicans came late and underprepared to the health policy game. Democrats spent the years between the Clinton health care initiative and Obamacare building a rock-solid health policy infrastructure—itself an expansion of the liberal health policy sphere built following the collapse of the Kennedy health plan in the 1970s—thus ensuring that both the policy apparatus and the votes would be there when the time came. And in 2010, that work paid off. Obamacare passed. Just barely. But it passed. And it’s still here today…
This is the problem for the GOP when it comes to health policy: It has no idea what it really wants, except repealing Obamacare, and maybe protecting Medicare for today’s seniors. (Mitt Romney’s primary health policy message, you may recall, was that Obama should not have cut Medicare to pay for Obamacare.) Which is probably why the party is having such trouble fighting a law that’s clearly having more than its share of bureaucratic troubles, and why GOP legislators are finding it so difficult to harness the very real public frustrating and confusion with Obamacare. Republicans, having never made the issue a priority, can offer no real alternative of their own except: not this. On health policy, Democrats may not have something that people like, exactly, but they have something. And they have that something because they spent the time to build it. As a party, and as a political institution, Republicans have never spent the time and effort required to unite the bulk of the party, and enough of the public, around a workable alternative. Instead, it has unworkable plans to fight the president’s policy.
Perhaps the most striking thing about the immigration battle, in the context of the other intra-party conflicts now going on, is that the number of Republican senators who voted for the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill — 14 – is barely larger than the dozen who support Mike Lee’s defunding Obamacare plan. But they are a different group. And those groups don’t line up precisely with the sides in the national security debate. Tom Coburn and John McCain were on different sides of the immigration vote, but they are united against the defunding Obamacare initiative. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were also on opposing sides on immigration, but they are united in favor of defunding Obamacare. And Cruz, Rubio, and Lee joined Paul’s famous filibuster in which he mused about the possibility of U.S. government drone strikes against American cities — a filibuster Rubio’s immigration allies McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham bitterly opposed.
In other words, the party is divided every which way. And at least some of that division is entirely understandable. It’s what happens to parties when they don’t have a leader. And Republicans, after two straight presidential losses, have no one who even approaches national leadership. So factions appear and divisions worsen.
But the very number of divisions within the GOP makes it difficult to imagine the party falling into a classic civil war, with two sides lined up against each other over some irresolvable dispute. The coming battles inside the Republican party will be a series of moving fronts, with changing sides and changing tactics. It could be ugly at times, and it could be serious enough to ensure a chaotic presidential primary fight in 2015 and 2016. But all-out civil war? Probably not.
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