“People want us to stand up,” Senator Rand Paul told Sean Hannity earlier this week about the Republican drive to end ObamaCare. “I ran on being against ObamaCare,” he continued, and called the defunding strategy pushed by his colleagues Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio “the only method at this time to do anything” about the Affordable Care Act. However, Paul also admitted that “I may not be able to guarantee victory,” and that a delay strategy will be the likely fallback plan (via Michael Warren at the Weekly Standard):
“But what I can guarantee is I will stand up if the House were to defund it. The Senate probably won’t,” Paul said. “So the ultimate compromise is we take it away from Obama’s agenda and back towards ours, which may not be defunding it.”
“Delay it?” Hannity asked.
“You start out with defunding it in order to maybe get to a delay or maybe to get to where the individual mandate goes away since the employer mandate he’s already delayed,” Paul responded. “Why don’t we use our leverage by having the Republican House to, at the very least, get to delaying the individual mandate?”
Allahpundit described Paul yesterday as a “defunding diehard,” but this suggests that Paul is more of a defunding pragmatist. If the Senate could pass a continuing resolution that defunds ObamaCare, then he’d stick to his guns. However, with 55 votes in the Senate and no ability to apply a filibuster on budget bills, Democrats have plenty of votes to pass a CR without any Republican assistance. It’s not that the Senate probably won’t pass such a CR, even if the House were to insist on it, it’s that there is not a chance in the world that they would defund it — and as AP noted, Tom Coburn’s requested analysis from the Congressional Research Service shows that they can’t, not without statutory changes that Obama would veto even if the Senate passed such a bill, which Democrats wouldn’t even allow to come to a floor vote.
In the absence of a Republican majority, then, the only realistic option is to force a delay across the board. On that score, the House would be on board, and even a few Democrats in the Senate might be convinced to follow along — especially red-state incumbents up for re-election in 2014. Even if they don’t go along, or if Obama vetoes any attempt to delay the individual mandate and exchange subsidies, the Republicans have a winning argument in their attempt to give consumers the same break that Obama gave businesses and insurers for 2014. Perhaps the pragmatic side of Paul also sees the win-win scenario in that fight, rather than the losing battle over a game of budget chicken that Republicans can’t win at all given the current composition of Congress.