By John David Dyche
Republican political prospects are looking pretty good right now. The economy still stinks. President Obama has been incompetent, naïve and weak on Syria. Obamacare is proving to be a costly, bureaucratic, job-killing train wreck.
The one thing the GOP does not need is responsibility for shutting down the federal government. But Republicans can forget about winning the Senate and could lose the House of Representatives if the public, aided and abetted by liberal mainstream media, blames them for a shutdown.
Yet that is just the self-destructive path that a lot of tea party-type Republicans are advocating. The leadership of the GOP’s lemming wing consists of some smart, well-intentioned constitutional conservatives, some of whom harbor presidential ambitions: Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio of Florida.
Joined by a cadre of House hardliners, their rallying cry is, “Defund Obamacare!” They oppose any continuing resolution to fund the government after the Sept. 30 expiration of the current fiscal year that includes money for Obamacare.
This gambit is destined to fail in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and could leave Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner without enough votes to pass a “clean” continuing resolution in the House. Regardless, Obama would never sign something that gutted his signature (only?) accomplishment.
The defunding movement could lead to a government shutdown as happened in 1995. The results would likely be similar to, if not worse than, they were then. Republicans lost House seats in 1996, and the shutdown helped revive the foundering political fortunes of a Democrat President — Bill Clinton — leading to his reelection.
The Republican rebels are right to detest Obamacare. It is a monstrously bad law that most Americans oppose. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is correct when he calls Obamacare, the “single worst piece of legislation passed in the last 50 years in the country.” It should be repealed, not merely de-funded.
The way to kill Obamacare is to win elections. We had one less than a year ago in which repealing Obamacare was a big issue, and Americans reelected the man who birthed that misbegotten measure. The way to lose more elections is to shut down the government.
Anybody who thinks Obama would either go along with or bear the blame for a closure is dreaming. The same press now preoccupied with portraying him as a genius on Syria will depict him as the victim in any shutdown scenario. Indeed, a shutdown would provide Democrats with precisely the sort of political rescue they need when even some liberals have grown disenchanted with the one-time messiah of hope and change.
The de-fund Obamacare warriors say the time has come to take a stand and damn the consequences. But fidelity to principle will be precious little consolation if fallout from a shutdown costs Republicans the House or keeps them from capturing the Senate. Imagine the absolutely awful things Obama could do with a Democratic Congress during his last two years.
There will be another, better opportunity to make a political point in next month’s the debate over raising the debt limit. The last one produced the sequester, which has helped reduce the deficit.
So Republicans should hold the line on spending and try to redirect the sequester’s impact toward entitlements and welfare programs and away from defense. But the GOP should steer well clear of any tactics that could cause a government shutdown.
Cruz, Lee, Paul, and Rubio are good for the GOP and for the country. They are right on many other things, but wrong to draw this particular red line and deride those Republicans who disagree. Setting one’s self on fire to make a point may be fine symbolism and good for fundraising, but it is bad political strategy.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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