When he wasn’t calling for aid to the jihadi-jammed Syrian rebels this week, Senator Bob Corker was blasting fellow Republican Senator Ted Cruz over the pressure the latter has put on GOP lawmakers to defund Obamacare — pressure, that is to say, to match Republican election-season posturing with real action.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Thursday took a whack at Cruz over social media for leading the charge to push Republicans to back only spending bills that defund Obamacare, which many in his own party have predicted will result in a government shutdown blamed on Republicans.
“I didn’t go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count — the defunding box canyon is a tactic that will fail and weaken our position,” Corker said, a clear reference to the Harvard- and Princeton-educated Cruz.
Corker obviously didn’t need an Ivy League education in order to master the ways of Washington. Just six months ago, he liked Cruz’s “defunding box canyon” so much, he voted in favor it. All Senate Republicans did.
Byron York has the story at the Examiner. Back on March 13, Cruz offered an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act calling for the defunding of Obamacare. All 45 Republicans voted in favor of it. In fact, 20 of them joined Cruz as co-sponsors. With a possible primary challenge on the horizon, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell even made a point of letting the base know:
I want to thank Sen. Cruz for offering this amendment. . . . I strongly support his efforts. . . . We need to get this bill off the books and straighten out our country. This would be a big step in the direction of achieving that.
Sure it would.
Indeed, some Republicans who are vehemently opposed to the defunding gambit today voted for it in March. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, for example, has called the current defunding proposal “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” In March, Burr not only voted for defunding; he was a co-sponsor. Another Republican, Sen. Tom Coburn, has denounced the current defunding move as “dishonest” and bound to fail. In March, Coburn co-sponsored the Cruz amendment. [ACM: See Eliana’s post describing Coburn’s Sunday Show explanation that the defunding initiative he co-sponsored only six months ago now suddenly “can’t be done” … followed by his grousing, without a hint of irony, about “the crisis of confidence in our government.”] Other Republicans — Sens. Johanns, Johnson, Chambliss — who now say defunding won’t work were also co-sponsors of the Cruz defunding measure in March.
The change has left some of today’s defunders bitterly resentful of their colleagues and former allies. In private conversations, they complain that their fellow Republicans were with them when voting for defunding was easy but have run away when everything is on the line….
This is the Washington political class in sharp relief. The Republican establishment resists President Obama and his agenda only when it knows that resistance is futile, token and sure to be inconsequential — when it’s good for a campaign commercial about how hard the GOP is working to undo Obamacare, not when it’s about actually working hard to undo Obamacare. For most Senate Republicans, the vote on an anti-Obamacare amendment in the context of authorizing national defense programs that Republicans knew they were never going to block was a pose — just like the 40-odd votes to repeal Obamacare that had no chance of becoming law.
By contrast, the current defunding effort is a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is moment: Risk a government shutdown over Obamacare funding under circumstances where Republicans could be blamed, but where (a) Obamacare is very unpopular and its downside consequences are just beginning to kick in; (b) the defunding strategy includes a commitment to fund the rest of government so it can be demonstrated that Obama would really be the one shutting down the government over Obamacare; and (c) Obama himself has already unilaterally and unconstitutionally defunded aspects of Obamacare, including repugnant accommodations for big corporations, Obama insiders, and members of Congress — such that, if the government shuts down, Republicans can compellingly argue that they are only insisting that the American people get the same relief from this awful law that Obama cronies, the ruling class, and the politically-connected get.
It may not work. Even if it doesn’t, though, it could have long-term benefits as Democrats up for election in 2014 and 2016 — Democrats who have gotten Obamacare fixes for themselves — are forced to defend Obamacare in the light of day. And for conservatives, it is a chance to see which Republicans are for real and which ones talk a good game as long as it’s just a game.