The Fantasy of Defunding Obamacare


credit: Gage Skidmore / Foter / CC BY-SA

There's a very simple problem with the effort by a group of conservative Republican legislators to defund Obamacare: It almost certainly won't result in the defunding of Obamacare.

The GOP faction, led by Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, wants to turn the upcoming negotiations over a continuing resolution to fund the government into a last big stand against the health law. The party's message to the administration, they say, should be that the administration must agree to defund the health law, or Republicans will hold up funding for the rest of the government, potentially resulting in a government shutdown.

What they don't say is exactly how a government closure would lead to the defunding of Obamacare. Would the Obama administration and other Democrats suddenly agree to strip the president's signature achievement of all funding following a shutdown? Probably not. Instead, Democrats would blame the GOP for shutting down the government, and demand that Republicans back down from their "extremist" demands. And current polling strongly suggests that most voters would side with Democrats. A Morning Consult survey released earlier this week found that voters oppose shutting down the government in order to defund Obamacare by a two to one margin. With the public (and the media) on their side, Democrats would have no reason to cave.

A government shutdown, meanwhile, wouldn't even stop Obamacare temporarily. According to a Congressional Research Service report posted by the office of Sen. Tom Coburn, a GOP Senator who has been an outspoken opponent of the defunding strategy, health law implementation would continue during a shutdown.

Tellingly, those backing the defunding push aren't even bothering to explain how their strategy could plausibly lead. Sen. Cruz has essentially admitted that it's a losing plan. "If ordinary Washington rules apply, we can't win this fight," he told reporters yesterday, admitting that the votes to make it work don't currently exist. "The only way that we win this fight is if the American people rise up," he said. But given the recent polling, the strategy seems more likely to cause Americans to rise up against Republican defunders rather than the other way around. The defunding strategy isn't really a strategy at all. It's just a hope and a wish that political reality—of public opinion and Democratic determination to keep funding Obamacare—will suddenly disappear.  

To put it another way, there's no good reason to believe that "normal Washington rules" won't apply. But that seems to be the hope of those pushing defunding—that if they are bold enough, brash enough, loud enough, hardcore enough, they can change the way Washington works through force of will alone. In many ways it's a tough-talking GOP version of the same fantastical vision offered by Obama: not hope and change, exactly, but demand and change.

Obama, of course, didn't really change the culture of Washington, or transform the way politics worked. He and his administration did manage to achieve some big legislative victories, however, by pursuing level-headed tactics and strategies designed first and foremost to ensure that enough votes would be there when needed. In other words, he worked within the system, not against it. Republicans looking for big victories of their own would probably be more successful if they embraced a similar approach. 

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  1. Screw that. The GOP will be called extremist, obstructionist, etc. regardless of what it does.

    Kill it. Kill it with fire.

    1. Point is, if it's fireproof, kill it with fire might not be the best approach.

      1. Nuke it from orbit.

      2. I'm not sure that it is. The GOP could take the hardline approach with a fall-back position of just getting more of the law delayed.

        Once the law is in place, even if it's the disaster most expect it to be, it will be far more difficult to repeal.

      3. Nothing is really fire-proof. Some things are more fire resistant than others.

      4. What other tactics remain available to us? Secession?

        I don't think so.

        1. Soaring infant mortality rates.

        2. Win the Presidency and Senate, hold the House. Repeal the fucker.

          Just a thought.

          1. I hope to God that that's what happens.

          2. To prove that they deserve to be there, they need to at least fight the fucker a few rounds first.

            1. Exactly. Republicans that won't fight need to be replaced with Republicans that will. I'm looking at you, Mitch McConnell.

          3. But the supposed small government party already controls the chamber of the house which supposedly originates all spending. They are supposed to have veto over any spending.

            So I'm all for any attempt to convert any of "supposed"'s into actuals. If I were there that is what I'd do.

      5. Point is, if it's fireproof, kill it with fire might not be the best approach.

        You're never going to convince some people of the difference between mandatory and discretionary spending.

        Hint: One is funded with a CR, the other is not.

        You might as well be asking why someone doesn't defund Medicare through a CR.

      6. You've got it all wrong. If the GOP will not maneuver Obama into either Obama's shutting down the government to preserve the status quo to the degree that will do it--which is limited--then there is no reason not to burn down the GOP.

        Not one thing Cruz is talking about doing would shut down the government, that would be done by Obama and Reid.

  2. by pursuing level-headed tactics and strategies designed first and foremost to ensure that enough votes would be there when needed.

    Nothing says level-headed like using procedural legerdemain to take over 1/6 of the economy with what was supposed to be a draft of a healthcare bill.

    1. Suderman, unfortunately, is known for his consistency in tending to lean a great distance to the left.

      1. This isn't even the left wing position. This is even worse. It's the Rove-approved "political strategist" opinion. Does Suderman realize that doing what's politically expedient is essentially what Republicans have been doing which has allowed shit to get this fucked up? Actually doing what they were elected for- which is to represent the people who voted for them- is what trying to defund Obamacare is.

  3. http://www.breitbart.com/Big-G.....-Defunding

    I feel weird saying this, but I liked that Breitbart article better than this one. Cruz is right, we're not framing the debate correctly: it's not Republicans who are threatening to shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded. Obama is literally threatening to shut down the government if the GOP cuts one of his programs. It's like Bush threatening to shut down the entire government if Medicare Part D wasn't fully funded. How would that have been spun as Democrats being extremist?

    1. It couldn't. Because Democrats are the good guys. They're reasonable moderates. Republicans are anarchist nihilists. Whatever Republicans do is part of a plot to shrink the government and make everyone slaves of the Kochporations. Democrats are courageously fighting a rear-guard action against these saboteurs and wreckers. If anything, Democrats are too conservative, as shown by their rejection of single payer.

      Does that work for you?

    2. When Breitards make more sense than you do...

  4. The cosmos are just worried that a govt shut down will severely hamper the cocktail party circuit.

  5. Perhaps Peter or anyone else can explain to me why we can't do both.

    As has been said above, the GOP is going to get the short end of the stick either way.

    Defund it AND try to repeal it.



      why not pressure cookers and backpacks?

      1. I doubt if you can get them into the correct Congressional cloakrooms.

  6. Seriously, though, the Democrat side wants the House, the guys who are supposed to initiate spending bills, to pass a budget/continuing resolution funding a program which a maojority of House members oppose. If they introduce a budget/CR without such funding, the Dems will say, "OK, you've made your pointless childish gesture, now put Obamacare in there and we'll approve your budget/CR." And if the House sticks to its guns and refuses to put it in the budget/CR, the Dems won't approve any budget/CR at all, and they'll say the resulting situation is because Republicans are so extremist, etc. etc.

    The Democrats (and therefore the media) will make this the narrative. But they'll make a similar narrative to any effort at all to end Obamacare.

    1. Might as well do it now. Become the party of opposing self-destruction.

      1. Obama doesn't fund itself. It requires either the support of both houses of Congress plus the President, or 2/3 of each house to override a Presidential veto. If the House votes to fund Obamacare, they will get the credit/blame for that program. The question is, the, whether they support Obamacare or not?

  7. Obama*care* doesn't fund itself.

    1. Everyone paying these taxes passed with the bill would like a word with you:

      +.9% Increase in Medicare Tax Rate
      3.8% New Tax on unearned income for high-income taxpayers
      New Annual Fee on health insurance providers
      40% New Tax on health insurance policies which cost more than $10,200 for an individual or $27,500 for a family
      New Annual Fee on manufacturers and importers of branded drugs
      2.3% New Tax on manufacturers and importers of certain medical devices
      +2.5% Increase (7.5% to 10%) in the Adjusted Gross Income floor on medical expenses deduction
      Limit annual contributions to $2,500 on flexible spending arrangements in cafeteria plans
      All other revenue sources = $14.9 billion

      1. 10% New Tax imposed on each individual for whom "indoor tanning services" are performed.
        3.8% New Tax on investment income. Includes: gross income from interest, dividends, royalties, rents, and net capital gains. Investment income does not include interest on tax-exempt bonds, veterans' benefits, excluded gain from the sale of a principle residence, distributions from retirement plans, or amounts subject to self-employment taxes. (The lesser of net investment income or the excess of modified Adjusted Gross Income over a the dollar amount at which the highest income tax bracket, typically $250,000 for married filing jointly and $200,000 filing as an individual).

        1. OK, I see your point, so let me modify my response by saying that, if a budget was passed with a funding ban, then the ban would apply to collecting these taxes, and if no budget or CR gets passed at all, where will the IRS get the money to enforce these taxes during a govt shutdown?

          1. if a budget was passed with a funding ban

            You said "budget"...hahahahaha

            Seriously, read the Congressional Research Service report. It explains the situation pretty well.

            1. Can you, like, give me the Cliff's Notes version?

              1. hehehe...the taxes are collected...money is spent, and there isn't anything congress can do about it without repealing the law that funds it.

                1. That's quite incorrect, as a matter of law. It wouldn't pass the current Congress, but law could be passed prohibiting any expenditure by the government to enforce the law.

                  Were that to happen, it wouldn't matter if a previous law has authorized the expenditures and was notitself explicitly repealed.

  8. Reason since 2004: GOP doesn't care about shrinking government they will never make a stand.

    Suderman today: No no! Stop trying to stop the expansion of government! Conflict is scary!

    1. So you read the same nonsense I did.

      1. Suderman is the pussy Ann Coulter claims all libertarians are.

    2. No, he's saying this strategy isn't working. As retarded as usual, I see.

      1. Well no. He's not recognizing the actual strategy, and complaining about something he believes which is false besides.

        He's a fool, and he's doing it in public.

  9. Amazing how Suderman and everyone else here misses the essential fact that even if the Republicans could defund Obamacare they would get killed for it.

    Defunding Obamacare would not eliminate any of the new taxes nor would it eliminate any of the mandates, what you'd be left with is a situation where people are now forced to pay significantly higher taxes, corporations are required to provide health insurance or pay a fine, and individuals are required to pay carry health insurance or face a penaltax but none of the subsidies or benefits that were being funded by those taxes or designed to ease the burden of the insurance would be in effect basically killing the poor and middle class.

    It is a dumbass idea all around, almost as dumb about talk of repealing Obamacare. Why would you waste your time repealing it, you set yourself up for a huge political fight and expend huge political capital just to go back to the way things were before Obamacare which pretty much everyone agreed didn't work particularly well.

    If they had any brains or balls what they would be doing is actually coming up with a plan to REPLACE Obamacare with something that might actually work, then fighting for that. This way they don't have to waste time fighting for a repeal and then to get their own plan passed, they merely have to argue the merits of their plan once and remove Obamacare (which would simply be superceeded) as a political issue altogether.

    1. But a replacement plan, even if it was the most brilliant thing ever in the history of mankind (and it won't be) wouldn't pass the Senate and would just vetoed if it did.

      1. But at least the blame would be on those obstructing it, not those promoting it.

    2. You're quite wrong. If it were to be defunded it would be gone.

      No money means no enforcement, Obamacare becomes ink on paper which is null and void.

      And the GOP has a plan to replace Obamacare, and has had for years.

  10. $ Crisis 2014.

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