Defunding Obamacare won’t work

Brandon J. Gaylord Editor-in-Chief, HorseRacePolitics.com
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When you pick a fight you should have a strategy for finishing it. Right now Republicans have no endgame for defunding Obamacare.

There are two reasons for Republicans to talk about defunding President Obama’s signature achievement. The first is simple. Obamacare is bad and will damage the country. The second reason is political. Obamacare is unpopular and making the president and Democratic Party defend an unpopular law is good politics.

The fundamental flaw with trying to defund Obamacare is that Republicans can’t defund Obamacare. Yes, the House of Representatives controls the power of the purse – but only if the Senate and president sign off on their budget.

The Democratic Senate and President Obama will not sign off on the defunding of their signature accomplishment. It’s as simple as that. Most likely the defunding bill will die in the Senate and Obama will not even need to break out the veto pen.

Now that he’s won re-election, President Obama would let his approval rating drop into single digits before pulling the plug on the crown jewel of American liberalism. Put yourself in Obama’s shoes for a moment. What could be more important than protecting the law you sacrificed your first two years in office – and your Congressional majority — to pass?

If Republicans cannot defund Obamacare can they use it to make Democrats pay politically? Possibly, but they have a fine line to walk. Thus far, the public has sided with Democrats during the government shutdown and debt ceiling showdowns. When Republicans have gone head-to-head with Obama, the public has generally blamed them instead of the president.

Should Republicans actually shutdown the government, the media will televise a parade of seniors, children, teachers, firefighters, and policemen whose jobs and payouts are in jeopardy, in an effort to intimidate Republicans into caving. The government will turn off their most valuable services and public opinion will turn quickly. If the government shuts down Republican will lose whatever small gains they made in August and September.

While Republicans will lose politically during a government shutdown, they also cannot afford to back down come mid-September after they have ratcheted up the defunding rhetoric for the past month and a half. This is an all or nothing proposition. If Republicans are still moving forward with defunding in September, they will be in the dreaded no man’s land. Certain defeat moving forward, yet too far advanced to retreat without suffering losses (anger from their base). Their only option will be to retreat with their tail between their legs.

There has been a lot of anger from some conservatives directed at other conservatives for not supporting the defunding of Obamacare, but this is akin to getting mad at the guy standing in the middle of the road with a sign saying the bridge is out. Defunding Obamacare is a guaranteed loser. If you cannot imagine President Obama sitting down in the Oval Office and signing off on the end of Obamacare (no, he’s not doing it to sign single-payer into law) then supporting defunding at the expense of a government shutdown is insanity.