House GOP to vote on defunding ObamaCare next week

Shouldn’t we hold off on this until everyone’s had a chance to read the new ObamaCare comic book? That ought to correct widespread perceptions that this is a horrible, horrible boondoggle that’ll never work as advertised in practice. Remember: The big problem with O-Care is a messaging problem.

Seriously, though. Is the GOP playing games with its base on this vote?

House Republicans say they’re all on the same page about wanting to choke off funding for President Barack Obama’s health care law, but in their first real spending bill of 2011, it looks like they’re leaving that priority on the cutting room floor…

They’ll still have a shot at killing health care funding — using an amendment vote on the House floor — but by initially leaving the language out of the main funding bill, Republican leaders risk angering conservatives who think the new majority isn’t being aggressive enough…

A House Appropriations Committee aide insisted that Republicans need to write a continuing resolution that can be signed into law — keeping the federal government open — and isn’t “loaded up with a bunch of political time bombs.”

There are likely to be other, more detailed efforts to defund health care later this year when appropriators start writing the regular spending bills for fiscal 2012. Those could target not just the agencies but also specific provisions of the law — especially the individual mandate — and new boards and programs the law creates.

[Tea Party Patriots coordinator Mark] Meckler said the strategy makes Republicans sound like “they’re playing politics as usual, saying, ‘Well, this isn’t the right moment.’ Our message is, ‘Every moment is the right moment; every time is the right time.’”

So, if I understand this correctly, the idea is to have a big showy vote for the benefit of tea partiers on a separate amendment that would deny funding for O-Care this year. That amendment will pass and become part of the larger spending bill, which in turn will be rejected in the Senate when vulnerable Democrats terrified of the nutroots vote no on the bill because of the ObamaCare provision. (Remember, not a single Dem voted for repeal during last week’s Senate vote on health-care.) Then the bill will go back to the House for revisions, at which time — I assume — the ObamaCare defunding amendment will be quietly dropped and a new “clean” spending bill will be quickly passed in order to keep the government up and running. In other words, rather than use the stalemate to force a showdown with the Senate on ObamaCare, the House GOP will drop the matter for now and return to it later this year when a full, annual spending bill is considered. Supposedly. Or have I misunderstood?

The grand strategy here, I take it, is to make sure the GOP’s anti-ObamaCare agenda isn’t linked to any measures that could prove politically unpopular, like a government shutdown. If Republicans go to the mat on this now and there’s a deadlock on the spending bill, Democrats will blame it on the GOP’s O-Care offensive, which could shift public opinion. For the same reason, I think you’re unlikely to see Republicans tack any anti-ObamaCare measures onto their list of demands for raising the debt ceiling: If the Democrats refuse to budge and we hit the ceiling, they’ll attribute the resulting economic fallout to GOP obstinacy on the “unrelated” matter of health-care reform. Maybe that talking point will convince people or maybe not, but it’s a gamble. Boehner and crew would, apparently, rather pick their spots when the stakes aren’t so high. Or am I kidding myself here?

Update: Via the Plum Line, this doesn’t inspire confidence in unity of purpose either — it’s new GOP Rep. Sean Duffy, explaining his misgivings about voting for repeal until there’s a new Republican alternative bill ready to be passed.