Byron York’s been keeping count of how many Senate Republicans have dismissed the Mike Lee/Ted Cruz plan to defund O-Care as nutty, infeasible, or some variation thereof. As of last Thursday, there were eight. Lee and Cruz can only afford to lose five GOPers total in order to mount a successful filibuster. That means not only would every undecided Republican in the Senate have to side with them on this, they’d need to win back three people from the nutty/infeasible caucus. Ain’t happening, in which case why would Boehner and Cantor go to the mat for it in the House?
The real brinksmanship, supposedly, will be reserved for the debt-ceiling fight in the fall. Although even there, the leadership’s nudging people not to expect a shutdown:
Keeping the roiling House GOP united and away from the shutdown temptation in the weeks ahead won’t be easy, especially as the Beltway’s ever-increasing crowd of conservative organizations prod Republicans to shut down the government as a statement of principle. But my cloakroom sources tell me they’re now confident that House Republicans will not tread into a shutdown battle with the Obama White House. GOP firebrands may threaten a shutdown and theatrically insist it remains an option, but the party’s private appetite for one, even among the right flank, is dissipating…
“A shutdown? It’s not happening, it’s really not, but I guess you won’t hear people say that out loud, including me,” chuckles a senior House Republican. “No one, you see, wants to be ‘out-toughed’ on Obamacare. We’re out here talking about repeal everyday. But the speaker and everybody else here know that the Senate votes, unfortunately, will never be there to pass a continuing resolution to defund Obamacare.”…
In the early morning [of July 31], Boehner went before House Republicans for a closed-door session in the Capitol basement and outlined his approach. It was Boehner’s most direct statement in weeks about the “defund or shutdown” discussion. He pulled the focus away from the tactic of using shutdown as leverage for defunding the law and argued instead for “well-placed, targeted strikes that will ultimately dissolve the Obamacare coalition,” such as the recent votes to delay the employer mandate and the individual mandate, both of which won scattered support from House Democrats. “We’ll have to stick together and communicate,” he said. “But this strategy is achievable. And it’s our best shot at actually getting rid of Obamacare.”
Members were also buzzing about the leadership’s emerging strategy for the autumn talks. Sources tell me the House GOP will probably avoid using a shutdown as leverage and instead use the debt limit and sequester fights as areas for potential legislative trades. Negotiations over increasing the debt limit have frequently been used to wring concessions out of the administration, so there may be movement in that direction: Delay Obamacare in exchange for an increased debt limit.
Obama won’t agree to delay implementation of the entire law. He needs the exchanges running ASAP so that people can start receiving subsidies. Once that happens, not even a Republican-dominated Congress will dare cancel the program. Depending upon how rickety the law looks in the fall, though — and it’s already looking pretty rickety — Republicans may have more bipartisan support than they do now for delaying major provisions, like the individual mandate. Once you start freezing key funding mechanisms like that, maybe the law looks unsustainably rickety next year and Democrats have no choice but to reach out to the GOP (including the new Republican Senate majority?) for an overhaul. That’s the endgame here for GOP leadership, I think.
As for Lee, Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and the other defunding diehards, they’ll have to console themselves with embracing a lost cause that’ll cost them nothing politically while boosting their favorable ratings with grassroots righties. Not a coincidence, needless to say, that three of those guys are probably running in 2016. In case you missed it yesterday, via the Right Scoop, take 30 minutes from a slow August news day afternoon to hear Lee debate Karl Rove on the merits of a shutdown.