The House Republicans collectively took careful aim at their feet and fired today with a vote to defund the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare.” The continuing budget resolution passed this morning, largely along party lines. One Republican, Scott Rigell of Virginia, voted against the measure and two Democrats, Jim Mathison (Utah) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.), voted for passage according to CNN.
The vote to defund comes amid a flurry of warnings from GOP strategists that defunding Obamacare is impossible and will likely backfire on the party. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told Newsmax on Sept. 18 that “the president appears now politically to be in favor of shutting down the government” in order to score a “political win.”
Two days earlier, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said, “I think he wants this thing to happen, a shutdown of the government.” The comments, made on the Hugh Hewitt Show, were quoted in the Huffington Post.
If President Obama wants a government shutdown, the Republicans appear to be eager to give it to him. The budget resolution will now go to the Senate, where the Democratic majority will either do nothing or amend the bill to include funding for the health care and then send it back to the House. The showdown will continue until one side loses its nerve, which may well come after the government shuts down.
It is likely that Obama wants a government shutdown in order to distract from the economy and Syria, as well as to make Congress the obvious scapegoat for national problems. According to the Daily Caller, Obama’s campaign group, Organizing for America, is already running ads that attack Republicans for attempting to shutdown the government. The ad points out that Social Security and unemployment checks will be affected if the government shuts down.
On Sept. 18, pollster and strategist Dick Morris argued that the debt limit, not Obamacare is where the GOP should make a stand. In Morris’ view, there is a logical connection between spending and debt that is lacking in the movement to defund Obamacare. By focusing on spending and entitlements, which have expanded dramatically since 2008, Obama would be placed on the defensive.
Karl Rove also called the defunding strategy “self-defeating” in the Wall Street Journal on Sept. 19. Rove notes that independent voters increasingly resemble Republicans. With President Obama and the Democrats sinking in issue-based polls, the Republicans have a lot to gain in next year’s elections if they do not alienate the independent voters that they need to win.
Rove notes that the one issue in which independents disagree with Republicans is the issue of defunding Obamacare. Rove’s group, Crossroads GPS, polled independent voters and found that they oppose defunding Obamacare by 58 to 30 percent.
Rove also takes aim at claims that Republicans will be able to blame the shutdown on Barack Obama and the Democrats. Overall, independents reject the Republican argument that Obama is at fault by 57-35 percent. In battleground states, independent voters favored Obama’s claim that Republicans were to blame by 59 to 33 percent. Even in districts that lean Republican, voters accept Obama’s argument by56 to 39 percent. The 2014 Senate races currently favor the GOP according to Examiner’s analysis, but a government shutdown could change that.
On the contrary, Rove presents an alternative strategy of delaying the implementation of Obamacare, a strategy that has a precedent from President Obama himself. Rove’s poll found that independents favor delaying the individual mandate by 51 to 42 percent.
Rove also contradicts the Republican belief that the party did not suffer after the Clinton-era government shutdown. While acknowledging that the GOP won two Senate seats in 1996, he points out that the party “lost three House seats, seven of the 11 gubernatorial races that year, a net of 53 state legislative seats and the White House.”
It is certain that the Republicans will not be successful in defunding Obamacare. Simple math can establish that beyond a doubt. It would take five Senate Democrats to pass the budget resolution. When Obama vetoes the bill, as he is certain to do, 54 House Democrats and 21 Senate Democrats would be needed to override the veto. So far, the GOP has been joined by two Democrats.
What is not certain is what the ultimate outcome will be. Thus far, President Obama is refusing even to negotiate on the debt ceiling or the budget resolution according to the Washington Post, lending credence to the notion that he wants a government shutdown. In the end, the token concessions that the Republicans may win in the confrontation will be at the risk of losing of the 2014 elections, the only route to the full repeal of the Affordable Care Act.