According to Reuters, at least, the House Republican caucus has settled on a new strategy to fight ObamaCare — and on new ground. The caucus has decided to shift away on a defunding strategy based on a continuing resolution needed by the weekend to keep government funded, and instead tied the debt-ceiling raise needed by October 17th to an agreement to delay the rest of the ObamaCare mandates for one year:
Republicans in the House of Representatives will demand a one-year delay of full implementation of the 2010 healthcare law known as Obamacare in its opening offer to increase the U.S. debt limit, their leaders announced on Thursday.
Earlier today, John Boehner rejected Barack Obama’s refusal to negotiate on a debt-ceiling raise, telling the media, “It doesn’t work that way.” Obama should know better; he negotiated on the debt ceiling in 2011, for instance, and voted against a similar hike in 2006 as a Senator during the Bush administration. When he claimed that Republican demands for negotiations amounted to extortion and were unprecedented, the Washington Post slapped him with four Pinocchios for the claim.
The shift in battlegrounds for Republican caucuses in both chambers had been noted earlier by Politico:
A large number of Senate and House Republicans are raising the threat of a debt default to curtail, delay or defund President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. It’s a major gamble — risking the prospect of a first-ever default on U.S. debt — but it’s one seriously being considered by the same Republicans who have refused to join Cruz’s filibuster attempt of the stopgap spending bill to keep the government running.
“I think the debt ceiling is a good opportunity … to defund or at least delay,” said Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, who opposed his Texas colleague’s tactics on the spending bill. “I’m for delay, defund, repeal, demolish, destroy, whatever the ‘d’ is, when it comes to Obamacare — I’m for.”
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who dubbed Cruz’s threat to shut down the government over Obamacare the “dumbest idea” he’d ever heard, said Congress shouldn’t give Obama a debt ceiling increase without attaching strings, and the president “is going to pay some price for it, which is a benefit for the American people.”
“I hope [an Obamacare] delay is either part of the next [continuing resolution] or I hope it’s part of the debt ceiling,” Burr said.
Byron York also reported earlier that the predictable failure of the all-or-nothing defunding strategy had Republicans on Capitol Hill thinking about more subtle ways to impact ObamaCare and other priorities:
House GOP leaders have lots of options. They could always re-attach a defunding provision and send the continuing resolution back to the Senate. I’m told that idea is off the table; it would do nothing except provoke a government shutdown. The House GOP could also attach a measure to delay the implementation of Obamacare, or of the individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare, for a year or some other period of time. I’m told that is also off the table; Senate Democrats and President Obama have shown no more inclination to agree to delaying Obamacare than they have to defunding it.
House GOP leaders could also decide to surrender completely and simply pass the “clean” continuing resolution, ensuring funding of the government and doing nothing about Obamacare. I’m told that’s off the table, too.
York didn’t mention a delay, but instead reported that Republicans might offer one or both of two other options. One would be a repeal of the medical-device excise tax, which some Senate Democrats want to see eliminated, but which would create a shortfall of statutory revenue for the ObamaCare exchanges. The other would be to force a reversal in the White House decision to exempt Congress and its staffers from the provisions of ObamaCare and its exchanges. Both options would make it difficult, if not impossible, for vulnerable Senate Democrats to oppose.
On the other hand, with defunding dead, does it make sense to delay or nibble at this at the late stage of a game of fiscal chicken? The exchange rollout is already a disaster, with premiums skyrocketing and even the smallest and most Democratic government unable to get its act together. Perhaps the best way to argue for a later dismantling of ObamaCare is to get out of the way of the train wreck and make sure that the Obama administration and Democrats own it entirely, rather than allow the claim that the troubles have been caused by Republican efforts to stop it. That’s the “let it burn” strategy, and at this point, it might be a better play, especially if Democrats really want to own it — as they have proven this week. It’s still worth forcing Democrats to vote against a one-year delay for consumers while endorsing delays that let employers and insurers off the hook, though. Get that on the record, and then perhaps it’s time to get out of the way.