The ‘Patriotic Saviors’ Thought They Could Nudge Democrats. They Couldn’t.

by Jim Geraghty

Bob Costa:

The agreement would fund the government until January 15, extend the debt ceiling until February 7, and initiate a budget conference for fiscal negotiations later this year. The agreement would also keep sequestration intact.

Republicans could have gotten that deal before October 1, or at any point in the past two weeks.

Kirsten Soltis Anderson applies game theory to the current fight over Obamacare and funding the government, and describes four scenarios. In the second scenario, Democrats surrender and repeal or delay Obamacare; in scenario four, there’s a stalemate and the government is shut down and/or the debt ceiling is not raised.

The House did in fact pass a bill that defunded Obamacare while funding the rest of the government. They played that strategy. The bill went to the Senate and did not survive. We wound up in Scenario Four. Bill after bill, idea after idea, and we always wound up in the same place: Scenario Four.

And as Scenario Four has played out, it has become increasingly clear that it is not playing out as the Republican win that the Defund movement may have hoped for or predicted. I will give the Defund movement the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they honestly did believe that even initially winding up in Scenario Four would ultimately lead to Scenario Two.

I was one of those people and believed from the very beginning that Scenario Four would play out as badly for Republicans as is has. My firm was criticized by supporters of the Defund movement for alleging the very same thing prior to the shutdown.

Now, the game has been played out, we know the result, and we know who was right about the outcomes.

This is one of the reasons that it will be hard for many to follow Jonah’s advice, “Move on, everybody, it just doesn’t matter.” The GOP is going to face similar fights over Obamacare, the budget, spending, and debt in the months and years to come. The strategy the party uses in those fights to come does matter, a lot.

Some portion of Republicans did not support passing a continuing resolution to fund the government that included any funding for Obamacare. I referred to these folks on Twitter as “Defunders,” but I was assured that was pejorative, and urged to use the term “Patriotic Saviors.”

Fine. The “Patriotic Saviors” pursued a goal that absolutely required Democratic votes in the Senate and a presidential signature, or, alternatively, veto-proof majorities.

The “Patriotic Saviors” or anyone who wanted to enact a serious change to Obamacare, be it a delay in the individual mandate or repeal of the medical device tax,  needed five Democratic senators and a presidential signature, or 21 Democratic senators and 58 Democratic members of the House to join all Republicans in the House and Senate to overcome an Obama veto. You can scream and shout about the Washington Establishment, RINOs, “squishes”, or anything else, but in the end, you need a way to get those who are loudly, publicly, and adamantly opposed to your proposal to change their minds and do something they’ve sworn they will never do.

They tried their best. Senator Ted Cruz offered his quasi-filibuster that went on for hours and hours. They tried, and they tried, and they tried to build a wave of pressure from outside Washington to sway those Democratic senators and the president. 

They didn’t get them. It was always a long shot. As the shutdown began, it became clearer by the day that no Democratic senators could be dislodged from their pro-Obamacare positions, and the president wasn’t willing to give an inch on Obamacare, even as the exchange web sites face-planted on the first day and barely improved from that opening belly flop.

The past 15 days have been an exercise in self-inflicted polling wounds, as it was clear that the Republicans would always feel more pressure to A) reopen the government and B) avoid hitting the debt ceiling. The “Patriotic Saviors” insisted that this would end another way, that at some point Obama, Harry Reid, and congressional Democrats would flinch and put a better offer on the table.

They were wrong. I wish they had been right, but they were wrong.