The GOP's Flawed Plan to Defund Obamacare

Republicans should focus on entitlement cuts, not P.R. stunts.


To grasp just how big a belly-flop the congressional Defund-Obamacare Caucus has taken into the lake of lunacy, consider this: Karl Rove thinks they are being unrealistic.

Karl Rove.

Rove is the man who — you might recall — was arguing, late into Election Night, that Mitt Romney had the presidency in the bag. Rumor has it Rove still sneaks down into his basement now and then to re-check the numbers.

But on the folly of tea party efforts to defund Obamacare, Rove has not the slightest doubt. As he noted recently, in order to prevail the defunders first would have to convince some Democrat or Democrats in the Senate majority to join their quixotic quest. That won't happen. Supposing for argument's sake that it did, the president would simply veto the measure. Overturning the veto would require turning many more Democrats: 54 in the House and 21 in the Senate. "No sentient being," Rove says, "believes that will happen."

And yet the defunders press on — even after Sen. Ted Cruz admitted the votes weren't there, even after defunding's principal cheerleader, Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, all but admitted it is just a P.R. stunt. Last week the defunders staged something close to a palace coup when they steamrollered House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, who had been trying to talk some tactical sense into them. The House leadership had proposed a plan that would have required the Senate to vote on defunding Obamacare yet still allow it to pass a spending measure. Outraged, the defunders started sharpening their pitchforks and lighting their torches. Boehner backed down.

With the federal bank account empty, this sets the stage for a government shutdown — and not just a halfhearted, kinda-sorta shutdown like the one that took place in 1995, when a number of appropriations measures already had passed. The shutdown looming now would bring just about all federal activity to a full stop. Everyone knows how the story would then play out: Public fury would rain down upon the GOP like an acid monsoon, and flayed Republicans would quickly accede to the president's demands. Just like they did the last time.

This doesn't mean Democrats have virtue and honor on their side — just the votes. As Oscar Wilde said, "It would take a heart of stone not to laugh out loud" at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's complaint that "bipartisanship is a thing of the past." Reid would not recognize bipartisanship if it wore a blinking neon sign. Democratic intransigence is central to this showdown, too. You can't have a stalemate if one side is willing to give. And as The New York Times has noted, "The health law is not negotiable for President Obama and the Democrats."

The president also insists he will not negotiate on raising the debt ceiling — another fiscal debate that will follow the appropriations fight in short order. Obama's defenders insist congressional conservatives have taken the debt ceiling hostage, and with it the country's credit rating and fragile economic recovery. They implore Obama to stand firm. But if the hostage analogy is right, then their advice is wrong — at least according to every Hollywood climax since the invention of film.

You know the scene: The hero is about to prevail when the wicked villain sticks a gun in the ear of an innocent child. "Drop your weapon," the villain snarls, "or I blow her head off!" With blazing eyes the hero slowly lowers his gun to the ground and shoves it away with his foot.

That's how the scene is supposed to play, anyhow. In this instance, though, the presumptive hero — Obama — doesn't stand down. Instead, he's willing to let conservatives shoot the innocent bystander in the head, just so he can shoot them in the foot. Not very noble.

All analogies are inexact, and this one breaks down partly because Republicans are actually asking not for something wicked but for something good: spending reductions. Last week the Congressional Budget Office reported (as if it needed further reporting) that the nation's long-term fiscal trajectory is unsustainable. Without real and deep cuts to entitlements that should have started a couple decades ago, the national debt will ruin the country.

That's the hill upon which Republicans should plant their flag. Obamacare might be execrable, but it also is untouchable so long as we have a president named Obama. Moreover, compared to the three gargantuan entitlements its outlays are almost trivial. Obamacare will cost $1.8 trillion over 10 years — no small sum. But by 2023 Medicare alone will cost $1 trillion every year. Adding Medicaid and Social Security will bring the annual tab to $3 trillion. Add interest on the debt, and by 2025 those programs will consume every last federal dollar.

On defunding Obamacare, conservative Republicans are trying to deny mathematical reality. But on the far graver question of the national debt, the whole country is.

This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. I don’t know, it seems like a pretty good strategy for the Republicans to force Red State Democrats to vote in favor of Obamacare yet again.

  2. That’s the hill upon which Republicans should plant their flag. Obamacare might be execrable, but it also is untouchable so long as we have a president named Obama.

    Yeah, because the Democrats would so agree to that. We would be in the same position just with entitlement cuts, which last I looked were a lot less popular than killing Obamacare, as the reason. I am not seeing the logic of this.

    What the Republicans need to do is start passing bills out of the House that defund Obamacare but include all sorts of goodies for liberal interest groups. Include the gun control measure in one. Then in the next, put in amnesty. Then pass a third that has card check. Then a fourth that repeals the tax on union health plans. Let every liberal free shit interest group know that the Democratic Party considers Obamacare more important than their pony.

    Then after that, pass a CR with Obamacare and some pretty deep but not too deep spending cuts and walk away. After we go through this whole charade, Obama and the Dems are pretty much going to have to accept about anything that comes out of the House that funds Obamacare. Give them Obamacare but approve the Keystone pipeline and repeal the EPA coal regulations. Lets see Obama shutdown the government over that after the House gives him his beloved health care law.

    This shit isn’t hard folks. Obama is a total fucking rube. Putin just depantsed him on the international stage.

    1. Those three paragraphs are better political intrigue than the dems or the reps in congress are capable of.

      1. They have no balls and no imagination. I would give them the gun law they want. Fuck it, even if they signed it, you could repeal it later. That would be worth defunding Obamacare. But they never would. But man it would kill him. They would cry their eyes out over it. Then every time a Dem brought up gun control, you could say “they could have had common sense gun control, but they considered Obamacare more important”.

    2. Well… that maybe could have worked a few decades ago before EVERY LITTLE THING going on in Congress was subject to intense real-time scrutiny and criticism.

      For better or for worse (you can make a reasonable argument either way), as a result of the Information Age and the amazing rise in power of single-issue voters, the political parties are under extreme pressure to not compromise on certain things, or risk the wrath of well-funded primary challenges. Dems will never compromise on Obamacare; Reps will never compromise on gun rights. Quid pro quo in America’s legislative process is all but dead.

      1. Quid pro quo in America’s legislative process is all but dead.

        Sounds like a reason to celebrate. Gun rights keep gaining, while the FedRes wont be able to cover up the lack of demand for government debt by continuing to buy the spread; interest rates go up, the social cost of bread and circuses and clown shoe regulation then cannot be hidden. The Establishment lose their heads for their many years of dicking over the bourgeoisie.

  3. TL;DR:

    “GOP is silly for trying to defund a deeply unpopular law. So they should instead try to defund hugely popular entitlements.”


    1. Yeah, I came to post the exact same thing.

      “Forget about defunding that 3 year old law that 50% of the country doesn’t like and whose main provisions haven’t kicked in yet – instead focus on defunding those 75 year old entitlements that are more popular than oral sex.”

      I think Hinkle’s been hitting the sauce.

      1. Or the crack pipe.

  4. Fuck Karl Rove.



    That is all I have to say to Republican politicians.

    1. I understand that it would be difficult to shut the government down forever. You and I wouldn’t think it was a big deal. But I understand how people do and how Republican office holders are loath to do that. But the Republicans don’t have to do that.

      They have Obama painted into a corner. He has made it clear funding Obamacare is the most important thing. The Republicans can accomplish two things. First, on the eve of this train wreck happening, they can make it clear to even the low information low IQ Obama voters that Obamacare and all of the horrible effects coming from Obamacare are entirely the result of the Democratic Party not just Obama. You can’t make Democrats in Congress vote to keep Obamacare too often.

      And second, you can fold and give Obama his Obamacare funding while you knock him in the head and take his lunch money. If the House comes out with a bill that funds Obamacare, Obama and Reid will play hell saying no to it. You could put all kinds of little poison pills in it that do real harm to liberal interest groups and they will be forced to vote for it or sign it or face being the ones who shut down the government.

      I know they have all the media coverage. But after all of this, no way is the public going to tolerate the Dems refusing to fund the government when the CR gives them Obamacare, I don’t care what else is in it.

  5. Not that I wouldn’t love to see this shitbag law defunded, but this is a stupid hill for Team Red to make their stand on. Hinkle’s right that the Reps don’t have the votes in the Senate to pass whatever they want to pass anyway, and they’re going to run the risk of looking like assholes if the govt shuts down and the media starts running with the 1996 parallels.

    Someone on here suggested that the best tactic for the Reps to take was to go in the opposite direction and send a budget to Obama on the condition that ALL the delays and waivers for Obamacare be immediately rescinded; any delays or waivers get implemented, and funding for the government immediately ceases. Make the bastard enforce the law that he signed, and sit back and watch every liberal special-interest group that gets screwed by it howl.

    1. That is a good idea as well. Also, send him one that delays the individual mandate. Let him explain to the country why business got a delay on their mandate but individuals don’t.

      There are not going to shut the government down for very long. And when this whole thing ends all of the “smart people” in the media will be spinning it as some big victory for Obama and this humiliating defeat for the Republicans and a real lesson to them on how they need to get these tea party fanatics under control.

      But the real story will be how it defined differences and actually made the Republican Party stand for something different than Democrat lite. Obama and Reid are pissed off about this for a reason. And it isn’t because they are so concerned for the country and the government being shut down. It is because it is forcing them to stand up and fight for and defend this bill, which they know is an unpopular disaster. They don’t want Dems in the Senate having to vote for it. They want to be able to change the subject and let individual Democrats campaigning in 2014 be able to tell angry voters “I don’t like Obamacare either” instead of having to explain why they voted to fund it.

    2. President NeverMyFault would sign the damn thing, issue a signing statement saying it’s an unconstitutional abridgment of executive power and continue issuing waivers and whatnot.

      1. That’s why the House would need to have the balls to cut off all spending the minute a waiver was issued. President Butt Naked can cry all he wants about the supposed abridgement, but as long as all spending bills have to originate in the House, he’d be effectively neutered if the Reps had the stones to follow through on that threat.

        And there’s precedent for this happening–back when Cheney tried to kill the V-22 by refusing to spend the money that Congress was appropriating for it, the GAO actually sided with Congress and told him that the Bush administration would be cited for illegal “impoundments” if the money wasn’t spent as approrpriated.

        1. But Obama, since the media refuses to hold him accountable for anything, could get away with impounding money. What is Congress going to do about it? Impeach the first black President? Over Chris Mathews’ dead body.

        2. President Butt Naked?

          When did beloved commentator General Butt Naked seize power in a military coup?

    3. That’s the strategy Vitter is trying to push. It must be an effective one because the pushback got really nasty.

  6. It’s all about positioning for next year’s election. You’d think Master Strategist Karl Rove would understand that. Of course, he has always specialized in apologist Republicanism, so his notion of “building the brand” is a bit different than most people’s.

    1. Exactly. It is not hard to figure out. If this were such a good thing for the Democrats, Reid and Obama would be up there talking about how they are saving Obamacare. Instead they are not even mentioning it. All they want to talk about is how the Republicans want to shut the government down. They are loath to mention why. Even the Dem court media won’t defend Obmaacare. They just throw out some line like “this will never work” or “Democrats can’t be expected to give up their big accomplishment” and go back to talking about the shutdown.

  7. We should listen to Karl Rove? Just how far was your head up your ass that you thought that was a good idea?

    Here’s the deal–whatever happens, the spin will be that the GOP, the Tea party, and libertarians lost. That’s what the spin will ALWAYS be.

    The side of sanity loses nothing by fighting every fight–because, no matter what they do, that stream of acid coming from the media towards them will never ebb. If the government shuts down they’ll go off, if the government doesn’t shut down, they’ll go off.

    I am so sick and tired of you pansy assed morons thinking that there’s some way to nice this out. There isn’t. They will never make nice because we stand opposed to everything they are.

    It’s a pity that they’re the only ones who see that.

    1. THIS. Reason should be 100% behind this effort and that it isn’t is not only a disgrace it’s an embarrassment. Years of (rightly) bitching about the GOP’s insincerity regarding cutting government and when it actually steps up? “Lets listen to Rove”. We need Postrel back.

    2. Not true. You can’t spin a nothing.

      Why am I able to remember the media blaming the Republicans, whether they were in the White House or Congress, for the shutdowns in the 1980s & 1990s? But I don’t remember the media blaming the Republicans for not shutting it down at other times? And the media seemed very persuasive to voters, judging by the polls.

  8. While I might not agree with all of the details, I think the play to defund is a good idea. It keeps the debate alive, forces the Democrats to own an unpopular law and the negative economic effects it is already having, and it sets up the closing round of the debate next November.

    Also, it’s the right thing to do to fight this abomination at every possible stage of the war. Do not let it get entrenched and use this as a starting place for rolling back Leviathan. I know much of the GOP loves Leviathan as much as the Democrats, but it’s obvious that many do not, along with a good percentage of the public.

    The government parasite has finally weakened our health to the point where we can’t just shrug it off. Even poor people are complaining about the lack of opportunities, which aren’t there almost solely because of government spending, government intervention, and the politicization of everything.

  9. Jesus Christ Hinkle, what were you thinking?

  10. Bullshite, Hinkle. I applaud anyone for going after a scumsucking program like the ACA. So people should refuse to fight for their principles if they cannot, according to pundits, win? Take a hike, bozo. Feck! Drink! Arse! Girls!

  11. So Hinkle’s advice is for the GOP do everything the libertarians (rightly) attack them for? And to try something ever more impossible like repealing Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security? And forgets that the reason those three are so expensive and untouchable is because Eisenhower and Nixon didn’t think it was possible to repeal them?

    1. No, not like repealing them?just cutting them. Like maybe trimming 3%. That’d be huge.

  12. I always thought it would be kewlest if the supposed good guy shot the hostage himself. Because, like, WTF?!

    1. That has happened, but I don’t remember what movie (maybe an older one with Robert Mitchum). The good guy shot the hostage, but just enough to cause her to collapse and be revived after the bad guy was shot.

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  14. Shut it down! We have no more juice in the world. We have a coward / bully for a president. Lets just get this over with.

  15. The Tea Party stands for everything Karl rove is against. He’s not exactly a credible or unbiased source for this article.

  16. “Drop your weapon,” the villain snarls, “or I blow her head off!”

    This reminds me of the seen in Blazing Saddles where Cleavon Little points a gun to his own head and threatens to shoot the black guy. The ‘bad guys’ (who aren’t terribly bright) drop their weapons. (My memory is a little hazy on this.) I need to watch that movie again.

  17. A Barton Hinkle is A Fartin’ Stinkle. What a moron you are, Stinkle! You can’t show Americans a small government and/or a market based principle without first standing proudly and proclaiming said principle. How better to tell the country just how f-d up their government and the ACA is than by commandeering the senate floor for 20 plus hours? its better use than passing more f-ed up bills. That is what Ted Cruz has done you clueless idiot–stood on principle and delineated positions all small government-minded people can get behind. But what do you do, Stinkle? You get behind that fat progressive republican slob, Karl Rove. Get lost, Stinkle, you sorry sack of dung!

  18. my best friend’s aunt makes $67 an hour on the laptop. She has been fired from work for 5 months but last month her pay check was $13328 just working on the laptop for a few hours. try here


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