A Q&A on Defunding

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Everything you wanted to know about what the various Republican camps are thinking, but were too bored to ask. For example:

What do the Republicans who oppose the defunding strategy suggest as an alternative now?

They want to use legislation over the debt ceiling—the federal government is about to hit the limits of its borrowing authority—to delay the implementation of Obamacare. To get Republicans to acquiesce to raising the debt ceiling, they hope, Democrats will agree to this delay.

What’s the difference between delaying Obamacare and defunding it?

There isn’t much of one. If you defund Obamacare for the duration of a budget, you’re delaying its implementation. In polls, though, the public seems to like “delaying” more than “defunding.” Maybe it sounds more like an acknowledgment of its problems than a partisan attack on it.

If the budget bill doesn’t give Republicans the leverage to defund Obamacare, why would the debt-ceiling bill give them the leverage to delay it?

Good question. People want the government to stay funded, and don’t like raising the debt ceiling. But the consequences of hitting the debt ceiling are generally considered to be worse than a partial government shutdown. Economists think that by raising the risk that the federal government will default on its debts, hitting the debt ceiling will rattle the stock market, credit markets, and consumer confidence. That doesn’t sound like a happier scenario than a shutdown for Republicans. If Republicans aren’t willing to provoke a shutdown, they probably won’t be willing to see a default either.

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