For the first time in 17 years, the federal government has been shut down. Seeking changes to Obamacare, House Republicans refused to pass a clean bill to fund the government. Over the past several days, the House has passed, and the Senate has rejected, several Republican proposals to simultaneously fund the government and attack Obamacare.
The first volley fired by Republicans included a provision defunding Obamacare entirely. Later bills included provisions to delay the individual mandate for a year, to repeal the medical device tax, and to remove special healthcare subsidies given to members of Congress and their staff. Each were rejected by Harry Reid and the Senate.
And so here we are, with the House, the Senate, and the President unable to come to an agreement to fund the government, it has shut down.
Put aside for a minute the pure recklessness of shutting down the government. Everyone agrees that doing so will harm our economy in some way, shape or form.
Let’s think about this from a purely political perspective, which it is clear all parties involved here are doing.
If you are going to play a game of chicken, you better have pretty good leverage in your back pocket. In this stalemate over funding for Obamacare, Republicans have no leverage. Zero, zip, zilch.
Obamacare is the President’s signature achievement. It is a also law that passed through the Congress, was upheld by the Supreme Court, and was fully litigated in the last election. Now, you may disagree with the way it was passed through a Democratically controlled Congress, as I do. And you may disagree with the Supreme Court’s pretzel of an opinion upholding Obamacare, as I do. But this is an issue that has been litigated over and over again, and each time Republicans have come out on the losing end.
Republicans have no legitimate basis and no leverage to repeal or defund the law on their own. So the strategy appears to be extract a high enough price to force Democrats to cave. So far, their bluff has been called. And why wouldn’t it? Democrats have nothing to lose here, politically speaking. Every poll says the vast majority of the blame for a government shutdown will go to Republicans. Why would they give up their baby for something they aren’t going to be held responsible for anyway? They won’t, of course.
The shutdown may go on for days but this ends only one way, Republicans cave. At some point, members of the House Republicans who have some shred of sensibility will end the Tea Party’s hostage crusade against Obamacare. And when Republicans cave, they will have gained nothing. All they will have done is tarnish the Republican brand at a time when President Obama’s approval ratings are sinking after repeated foreign policy blunders.
The only hope for the Republican party is that voters may wake up and realize just how reckless a large majority of Tea Party members really are. Only then will we get our Grand Ole Party back.
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