Yet again, congressional Republicans have backed themselves into a corner by believing the Left’s anti-GOP talking points — this time on Obamacare.
“Shutting down the government just because I’m for keeping it open? That’s not an economic plan,” Obama said in Florida last month.
“Defunding the Affordable Care Act is not achievable through shutting down the federal government,” Senator Richard Burr (R., N.C.) parroted.
As Republican senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio keep repeating, though few listen, they aim to shut down nothing. They want a continuing resolution that funds the entire federal government past September 30, except for Obamacare. If Obama signs such a measure, Yellowstone will remain open, the FAA will keep controlling jet traffic, and the FBI will continue to track terrorists. But Obamacare’s cash will evaporate, as well it should.
Conversely, if Obama vetoes such a budget bill, he — not Republicans — may jeopardize federal operations while ignoring the 54 percent of Americans who disapproved of Obamacare in the latest Rasmussen survey.
Republican lawmakers should stop quivering in fear of a president with a 44 percent Gallup job-approval rating. With a little courage and creativity, Republicans could fight the defunding battle effectively — if not to immediate victory, then to this dreadful program’s ultimate detriment. Here’s how:
First, Republicans control the House of Representatives, the birthplace of spending bills. They should exercise their constitutional power and imminently consider language that funds everything but Obamacare.
Second, Republicans should adopt the Left’s practice of giving bills delicious titles. How can they counter liberal claims that they want to padlock Washington? Call their Obamacare-defunding vehicle the Keep Government Open Act of 2013.
Third, the House should pass this bill immediately after Congress reconvenes on September 10. This legislation then would define the public debate until October 1. Democrats cannot accuse Republicans of closing the government if the GOP gives Senate Democrats and Obama nearly three weeks to respond to the House proposal.
This early vote also will put House Democrats on the record. Do they stand with Americans who face rising premiums and are losing their insurance, even if they like it, or do they stand with Obama, who illegally has decreed exemptions and delays to keep Obamacare wheezing along?
Fourth, with news cameras present, every House Republican should march this physical bill through the U.S. Capitol and over to the doors of the Senate chamber. “The Republican House has voted to fund federal services,” Speaker John Boehner should declare. “We hereby deliver this bill to the Democratic Senate to complete the people’s work and keep America’s government open.”
Fifth, while the Senate debates this bill, House hearings throughout September should showcase Obamacare’s victims. These might include Americans who now work part-time because their employers are confronting Obamacare’s rising costs. Medical-device manufacturers should detail how Obamacare’s fresh tax is unplugging new treatments. Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa Jr. should explain why he wrote that Obamacare will “destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”
“The Washington Post and NBC Nightly News won’t cover these hearings, so why conduct them?” some GOP invertebrates may whine. Such pathetic defeatism should be a non-starter among Republicans. The GOP’s job is to organize hearings that are too compelling and dramatic to ignore. (House Republicans accomplished this when they brought Benghazi whistleblowers and top IRS officials to Capitol Hill.)
News from these hearings will spread, at least via conservative media and such honest mainstream journalists as still exist. Besides, if the GOP House holds no Obamacare hearings, the Washington Post and NBC Nightly News certainly will not cover them.
When the Senate weighs the House bill, vulnerable Democrats such as Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu and Arkansas’s Mark Pryor must express whether they still support Obamacare despite its multifarious failures.
If public pressure prods enough Democrats to join Republicans in defunding the president’s health-care law, perhaps Obama himself will accept this for one year.
Failing that, the GOP fallback position may be to place the program’s funds in escrow in exchange for a one-year implementation delay.
Some Republicans simply would let Obamacare rip. Once functioning, they argue, Obamacare’s costs would explode as its “benefits” collapse. The rebellious American people then would demand to have Obamacare’s fangs dislodged from their necks.
Repealing Obamacare post-implementation still would require congressional approval and Obama’s signature. If that, essentially, is the battle Republicans would wage later, why not sooner? If Republicans win this time, great. If not, their arguments and tactics today will fortify them to try again tomorrow. If Obamacare indeed implodes in 2014, Republicans will be better positioned to push for repeal if they can show that they did everything possible to avoid this fiasco, from enactment in 2010 to defunding in 2013.
“We tried over and over to prevent this calamity,” Republicans should be able to say. “If you’re unhappy with Obamacare, stick it to the Democrats.”
“The problem with defunding is that, on January 1, Obamacare still will be the law,” Representative Duncan D. Hunter (R., Calif.) told constituents in Fallbrook, Calif., on August 22. “That’s why we need to repeal it.”
But defunding vs. repeal is no either/or proposition. It’s both: If a hostile tank prepares to roll into town and unleash doom, go look for antitank grenades. Meanwhile, drain its fuel.
— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor, a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.