Congressional Republicans should absolutely fight to defund Obamacare in a fight over funding the federal government and President Obama has no right to demand a debt ceiling extension without Republicans demanding spending restraint in return, according to Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C.
Current government funding expires at the end of September. The GOP is divided over whether to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government at current spending rates across the board or to fund everything at current rates while completely defunding Obamacare. Many conservative members of the House and Senate are pushing to cut off funds, while leadership has been very cool to the idea.
Now, with Obama weakened by stumbles over Syria, at least 43 Republican lawmakers claim it's time to wage all-out war on the president's signature legislation.
Mulvaney said starving Obamacare makes perfect sense, and there are enough members committed to this course of action to force the issue.
"I don't think the support exists within the Republican Party now to not fight. We have to fight," Mulvaney said. "It's not just folks you might think of ordinarily, the extreme right wing of the party. It's a lot of the guys more in the center who are hearing from their districts back home that folks don't want to fund Obamacare. I can't imagine us not dealing with Obamacare in some fashion as part of this discussion."
With Democrats controlling the U.S. Senate and President Obama likely to veto any funding bill that removes funding from Obamacare, Mulvaney admits it's an uphill climb. But he said conservatives might able to make some progress through this maneuver, and it shouldn't be that hard to explain to the public.
"The marketing there is very simple. We don't want to shut the government down. We should send a bill over to the Senate and the president that says we're going to keep every single part of this government open, except the part of it that doesn't exist yet in Obamacare," he said. "We do lousy messaging most of the time. That's why we might even be able to win.
"We might be able to get some wins. For example, we might get the IRS out of health care. We might be able to change the rules on the conscience provisions within the HHS mandate regarding employers who object to contraception and abortion based upon their religious principles. We might get rid of this IPAB. We might get rid of the medical device taxes. There's a lot of small victories we could get, but we're not going to get them if our opening bid is to fund the whole bill," he said.
By mid-October, regardless of how the budgeting battle unfolds, the debt ceiling will be breached and another major battle is expected. President Obama is trying to head off a repeat of 2011 by saying he refuses to make any concessions in exchange for a debt ceiling increase because he contends paying America's bills should not be held hostage to demands of spending restraints. That position is a nonstarter for Mulvaney.
"You hate to diminish the office of president of the United States by calling him silly, but that's just silly. We negotiate everything on this. You don't get to impose your will. You're not a dictator. You're not an emperor. We negotiate everything in Washington, D.C., and for him to say he's not going to negotiate this is one of the more absurd things I've heard him say out of a lot of absurd things I've heard him say," Mulvaney said.
"If he's serious about it, it means he wants to tank the entire economy, which is just bizarre. I'm surprised that more people are not calling him out on that. We have always used the debt ceiling for improving our spending condition. It's the one time when people get a chance to step back and say, 'Why do we have a debt problem?' This is our chance to at least make it a little better," he said.
Obama and many other Democrats contend that nearly $17 trillion in debt and much more unfunded liabilities is not a threat to the economy as long as annual debt comprises a small enough percentage of the gross domestic product. Mulvaney finds that approach appalling.
"I've run numbers that say within my lifetime, under some fairly reasonable assumptions, every single penny that we take in as a nation will go to one thing and one thing only and that is interest payments on the debt," Mulvaney said. "You tell me if that's dire. I think we both know that it is."