An extremely bold but politically risky strategy to stop Obamacare is gaining surprising support in Congress, and many Republicans believe the last chance to derail the program has arrived.
The plan is to put Democrats on the defensive and make them rescue the increasingly unpopular and imploding law, a law Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, told WND is “falling apart at the seams.”
The strategy is risky because Democrats could turn the attempt into a replay of one of the GOP’s most devastating defeats in recent years: the government shutdown during the Clinton administration.
The bold move will require Republican lawmakers to exercise great political dexterity to avoid the same fate as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995-96.
Perhaps most importantly, the GOP would seek to make a clear and compelling case to the American people as to why it would be the Democrats who would be shutting down the government, not the Republicans.
That is something Gingrich notably failed to do, even though it was President Clinton who refused to sign a spending bill passed by Congress.
Here is what Republicans are trying to do, how they are trying to do it and why they’re gearing up for the fight.
The grand strategy
A growing movement among Republicans would use the House’s constitutional power of the purse to cut off funding for the Affordable Healthcare Act before it goes into full effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
The man leading the anti-funding effort in the House, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., has asked the GOP leadership not to bring anything to the floor that has funding for Obamacare in it.
Meadows told WND, “The will of the majority of the American people is with us in wanting to move money we would have to spend on Obamacare to other critical areas that have seen substantial cutbacks.”
He is encouraged to see scores of his fellow GOP House members have already signed his letter asking “House leadership to defund Obamacare through the appropriations process” even though the letter has not yet been sent.
GOP lawmakers will need to convince the public this is a legitimate use of its powers by reminding voters the House of Representatives has the constitutional power and authority to withhold or allocate funding for all the operations of the federal government.
The founders entrusted the House, as the branch of government thought to be most responsive to the will of the people, with making bottom-line money decisions. And, as the one branch of government currently under GOP control, Republicans could certainly withhold funding for Obamacare indefinitely, if lawmakers muster the will and commitment.
Rank-and-file Republicans tried to block funding for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in President Obama’s first term, only to have their own leaders balk at the prospect of a possible government shutdown.
But, a growing number of Republicans sense it may be different this time because of increasing public dissatisfaction with the law and the administration’s problems implementing it.
Plan of action
Instead of approving any bills with funding for the implementation of Obamacare, the GOP would approve a series of bills funding all governments services except the health care law.
GOP lawmakers hope passing all the bills needed to keep the government running would prevent Democrats from accusing Republicans of pushing for a government shutdown over Obamacare.
The idea is that would put the burden on the Democrats to keep the government running and force a showdown in which GOP lawmakers could essentially tell them, “Take it or leave it.”
There is no question the Republicans have the power to defund Obamacare, because their control of the House gives them the power of the purse. The question is whether they have the will to see it through.
Why stop Obamacare?
Many Republicans see this as the last chance to stop Obamcare for two reasons.
One is because the law goes fully into effect at the start of 2014, and the other is because of an approaching Sept. 30 deadline for appropriations.
Congress has been keeping the government running in recent years with stopgap measures known as continuing resolutions, and this year those laws expire just as open enrollment begins for the health-care exchanges called for in Obamacare.
Many Republicans also believe the time is right to try to stop Obamacare because of its growing unpopularity.
A New York Times and CBS News poll released Thursday shows more Americans than ever support the repeal of Obamacare.
The poll showed “a majority of Americans – 54 percent – disapprove of the health care law, 36 percent of Americans approve of it and 10 percent said they don’t know about it.”
Obamacare is also unpopular with doctors. As WND reported, a recent poll showed six in 10 doctors said it is likely many doctors will retire earlier than planned because of the health-care law.
Republicans are also emboldened by growing missteps, such as the administration’s recent decision to delay the employer mandate for a year, a move seen by conservatives as an effort to limit damage done to the Democrats by the unpopular law during the 2014 elections.
Republicans are not the only ones who see Obamacare as a looming disaster for the economy and for the health care system.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who helped write the health care law, said in April that Obamacare appeared to be headed for a “train wreck.” Baucus said he was “very concerned” because small business owners and accountants are “throwing their hands” up in exasperation because of the law.
The growing problems with the implementation with Obamacare were listed Thursday in a Wall Street Journal article by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and an article in National Review by chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus.
- Unlike what President Obama promised, there is no guarantee people can keep their health plans.
- The Congressional Budget Office expects 7 million Americans to lose their existing employer-based health insurance.
- Also contrary to what the president promised, health-care premiums are going up.
- Many businesses have stopped hiring, to avoid reaching the limit of 50 full-time employees where they are required to offer health benefits.
- Many business are are cutting back workers’ hours, laying off workers or dropping plans for expansion.
- Teamsters President James Hoffa and other union leaders – typically Democrat allies – wrote that Obamacare will “destroy the very health and well being of our members,” and “destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”
- While the administration delayed the employer mandate for businesses, it did not do so for individuals.
- The administration doesn’t actually have a health care plan, just a law with thousands of pages.
- A 600-page rule the administration issued that employers, individuals and states are expected to follow only made the law more confusing.
Big risk: Taking the blame
Simply put, if lawmakers in the House refuse to pass any spending bill that includes funding Obamacare, the GOP will risk taking the blame for a government shutdown.
The Democrats would almost certainly rather see the government shut down than approve spending proposals that don’t include funding for Obamacare because they will expect Republicans to get the blame.
That could cost the Republicans precious votes in 2014 midterm elections as they try to retain control of the House and regain control of the Senate.
‘Don’t spend another dime on this disaster!’
GOP leaders realize, this time, they must make their intentions crystal clear to the public if there is a risk of a government shutdown.
They want to make it understood, if the Democrats refuse to pass spending bills, they are shutting down the government.
“The best way to do it is to start with a funding mechanism, a continuing resolution, passing in the House of Representatives that funds every other function of government at current levels but just excludes Obamacare funding,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah told WND during a radio interview.
“That would come over to the Senate, and once it became apparent that was the way to keep the government funded, (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid would have to make a difficult decision. I think it would be hard for him to explain to the American people why he would be willing to shut down the government simply to defend, doggedly, this very unpopular and unfair law that’s going to make health care more expensive in America,” Lee added.
That strategy aims to accomplish two objectives.
One, it would out the burden on Democrats to try to save Obamacare by trying to push through bills to save an unpopular law.
And, two, and most importantly, Republicans hope it would turn the tables and put the burden on Democrats to explain why they would risk shutting down the government to preserve Obamacare.
Burgess told WND the key is to make sure the public clearly understands what Republicans are doing and why.
“We need to do a good enough job communicating so people understand the House has done it’s work providing a funding bill to keep the government going for everything but the disastrous and doomed Affordable Care Act. And if the president says, ‘I’m not going to sign a bill like that,’ then it’s his decision to shut the government down, not ours.”
To get that word out, the GOP strategy isn’t confined to Washington, it is also aimed at the grass roots.
The Obama administration is about to launch a big campaign to sell the public on Obamacare, but Reuters reports Republicans are mobilizing a counter-offensive including town hall meetings, protests and media promotions to inform the public about the law’s perils.
Burgess told WND, “I think we have to be prepared to say to the American people, ‘Look, we’ve had three-and-a-half years, billions and billions of dollars, it’s not working. For heaven’s sakes, don’t spend another dime on this disaster!”
Reuters also reported FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity are planning media and grassroots campaigns aimed at young adults.
“We’re trying to make it socially acceptable to skip the exchange,” said Dean Clancy, vice president for public policy at FreedomWorks.
Also according to Reuters, Crossroads GPS is planning a media campaign for the fall aimed at elderly voters upset that Medicare may end up paying for Obamacare.
Will they have the guts?
Politically astute observers note that risking blame for another government shutdown will require a great deal of guts.
Even Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, has his doubts.
When asked on Fox News if Republicans will have the courage to employ the strategy, he replied, “Frankly, probably not.”
Paul did then say, “I do and I will stand with Mike Lee” and then listed all the reasons Republicans should make the Democrats defend Obamacare.
The real trick may be getting the leaders to lead the way on this issue.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are widely thought to be wary of taking blame for shutting down the government and paying for it at the polls in 2014.
WND asked Meadows how he plans to encourage GOP leadership to join the effort to defund Obamacare.
“GOP leadership has brought repeal votes to the House floor and stated that they will continue supporting efforts to get rid of the entire law,” he said. “Many conservative members are looking for ways to work together with leadership to reprioritize spending.”
‘We can stop it’
The plan is showing a great deal of support, and it is two-pronged effort underway in both the House and the Senate.
The defunding strategy has already attracted the support of a few leaders in the Senate, including the second- and third-ranking members of the GOP leadership, Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is also supporting the move.
Lee is spearheading the effort in the Senate, and he predicts enough Republican votes to filibuster a stopgap spending measure.
“If Republicans in both houses simply refuse to vote for any continuing resolution that contains further funding for further enforcement of Obamacare, we can stop it. We can stop the individual mandate from going into effect,” Lee said during an appearance on “Fox and Friends.”
Priebus believes a dysfunctional Obamacare is now working to the Republicans’ advantage and has Democrats “running scared.”
He told National Review the health-care law has given Democrats real concern for their re-election prospects in 2014.
Republicans’ ace: Power of the purse
The bottom line is, the House can stop Obamacare because it does have the power of the purse.
The lingering question is: Will Republicans have the will to act together and hang tough in a battle against the Democrats?
To do so, they will try to make clear they believe they are not “playing politics” or acting unethically, but fulfilling what they consider their constitutional obligation by opposing what they see as wrong and not funding it.
Republicans have a mounting body of evidence to point to make their case that Obamacare is not working and will hurt the country, and voters, if fully implemented.
WND CEO and Editor Joseph Farah recently pointed out how the House has the power to kill Obamacare without making any deals.
“They simply have to say no the next time a debt-limit hike comes before them,” he observed.
“They could kill Obamacare. They could kill unnecessary and unconstitutional Cabinet-level departments like Education. They could kill the EPA. They could kill taxpayer subsidies for state-controlled media like PBS and NPR. They could kill all foreign aid. They could kill taxpayer subsidies to Planned Parenthood. They could kill thousands of wasteful and counterproductive programs and much, much more simply by refusing to approve any more raises in the debt limit,” Farah continued.
“To date, this campaign has generated 1.5 million red letters to House Republicans urging them to live up to their own rhetoric and use the political nuclear weapon they have at their disposal. They can’t overturn Obamacare without help from the Senate and a signature from Obama. But they can defund it,” said Farah, anticipating what is beginning to dawn on more and more Republicans.
Farah pointed to numbers that should give lawmakers confidence voters will support their defunding efforts.
- 80 percent of Republican voters say they want to freeze borrowing.
- 70 percent of independent voters say they want to freeze borrowing.
- 60 percent of Democrats say they want to freeze borrowing.
Farah concluded, “In other words, we’ve got the people on our side. We’ve got the wind to our backs. We’ve got a mechanism in place to flood House Republicans with a message that will instill panic in them. And we start with more than 10 percent of the House Republicans already committed to voting no. We just need to convince most of the rest that their very future in Washington depends on voting correctly on this one issue.”