The House Leadership appears to be, to paraphrase Margret Thatcher, going wobbly. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has moved to include a straight repeal of Obamacare in the continuing resolution but has hit a roadblock from an unexpected place — House Republican Leadership. The continuing resolution is the bill needed to fund the government through the rest of the year. The King amendment would put the president in a box — would he shut down the government in order to ensure the continued government takeover of our health care system?
Aside from waiting for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the law and hoping they do the right thing, Republicans have three options to get Obamacare moved to the junkyard of history — they can attach repeal to a must-sign bill like the C.R. or the debt limit extension. Or they can begin to break the bill up into pieces and begin to repeal sections of the bill. Such a strategy would be like pulling a thread out of a wool sweater — at some point the sweater is destroyed. Or they can risk everything by trying to defund the implementation of the bill through the appropriations process that won’t conclude until the end of the year.
The proper course of action is all of the above. The president will never sign a bill emasculating his signature issue unless he has to. Does the Republican leadership believe the president will happily sign their appropriations bills without funding for Obamacare?
What appears to be lacking is a coherent strategy on the part of the Leadership. They started strong but now appear to be getting cold feet. Their hearts might be in the right place, but do they have the intestinal fortitude to see it through?
King has been making a persuasive case that his amendment to defund Obamacare on the continuing resolution is not out of the ordinary, yet it is still running into opposition from the leadership. He wrote:
There has been an effort behind the scenes to block my initiative to cut off all funding to Obamacare. One of the tactics is to argue that my proposal violates the rules by legislating on an appropriations bill. It wasn’t a violation when Congress defunded the Vietnam War, and it’s not a violation now. The CR, the very bill that I seek to amend, has language in it that blocks the use of any funds to move detainees out of Guantanamo Bay. By their definition, they’ve set a precedent and all I ask is to use the same tool to debate and vote on blocking the use of any funds to implement or enforce Obamacare. In fact, the CR as written already addresses Obamacare in at least four places, the 1099 provision among them.
If Republicans are fearful of attaching repeal to the CR, you can image they won’t consider repeal on the debt limit extension either, a strategy suggested by Michael E. Hammond, the former general counsel of the Senate Steering Committee:
We are probably only about four Senate votes short of sending the repeal bill to Obama’s desk in the 112th Congress. And, if Republicans have the courage to tack repeal onto the debt limit or continuing resolution, even without those four votes, the House will have the capacity to present Obama with a choice: sign the Obamacare repeal or shut down the administration’s rulemaking powers for the next two years. That’s right. No regulatory cap-and-trade. No NLRB requirements that employers encourage unionization. No BATF gun registries for multiple sales. No massive new administratively designated wilderness areas. No taxpayer-funded TV commercials touting Obamacare. No Obamacare implementation.
President Reagan was fond of saying that he did not want to “contain” communism, he wanted to “roll it back.” And roll it back he did. But the strategy was not implemented in Moscow, it started in Warsaw, East Berlin and Bucharest. Once the client states began to leave the Empire, communism collapsed. The same strategy would be effective against Obamacare.
Democrats have already shown themselves willing to repeal unpopular sections of the bill, such as the onerous 1099 provision that flew through the Senate like a hot knife through butter. While many House Democrats are not willing to support total repeal of the bill, they might vote for repeal of the individual mandate, an end to rationing of late-stage cancer drugs like Avastin, a freeze on the hiring of 16,500 IRS agents and a repeal of the tax hikes in the legislation.
We are waiting for House Republicans to start breaking up the bill into little pieces. Once major sections are repealed, the remaining sections standing will mean nothing — like Moscow after the Eastern European countries bolted toward the West.
Defunding Obamacare is a cornerstone of the repeal strategy but it should not be the only strategy. The appropriations process is time consuming and House Republicans will be forced to cut deals with the Senate in order to get bills to the president’s desk. There is, of course, no guarantee the president will sign any of them.
Repeal is the destination but there are many roads to get there. Which one will work is not entirely clear but the last thing Republicans want to do is settle on one route and hit a dead end. Every option should not only be on the table, it should be exercised so there is no regrouping if one fails. Republicans should take their cue from former speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who, when Democrats were ramming Obamacare through, said “We will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole-vault in. If that doesn’t work, we will parachute in.” Republicans need to show no less resolve in repealing this monster than Democrats showed in inflicting it.
Derek Hunter is a Washington-based writer and consultant. He can be stalked on Twitter @derekahunter