The government shutdown has arrived, and the Republic is still standing. Now is the time to use our leverage to create a transformational disruption of Obamacare. As we reach the eleventh hour of this fight, we must ensure that Republicans don’t completely capitulate for a few shiny objects.
Continuing Resolution/Obamacare – The big story from last week was the betrayal of Senate GOP leadership, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), when they allowed Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) to strip the Obamacare defund rider out of the House Continuing Resolution. Twenty-five Republicans voted for cloture on the bill in attempt to stop that from happening, knowing that Harry Reid had the ability to delete this vital provision with a mere party-line vote. Which is what he did. This allowed the Democrats to ship the full Continuing Resolution back to the House without the defund rider, and obtain superior leverage – leverage they would not have gotten had McConnell blocked the effort to fund Obamacare through cloture.
In addition, the Senate bill (H. J. Res. 59) stripped out the Full Faith and Credit Act, which would force the government to prioritize our payments on interest on the debt in the event that we hit the debt ceiling. The Senate bill also shortened the duration of the funding bill by one month to Nov. 15.
Late Saturday night, the House voted to modify the bill and send it back to the Senate primarily with two amendments – the Blackburn amendment and the Paulsen amendment. The Blackburn amendment delays implementation of Obamacare and the rest of the tax increases for one year without defunding the law. However, it does not delay everything. All the mandates – guaranteed issue and the slacker mandate – will be left untouched. These mandates are most responsible for the inexorable rise in insurance premiums.
The Paulsen amendment repeals the 2.3 cent excise tax on medical devices. Finally, the House Continuing Resolution pushed back the expiration date of the funding bill to Dec. 15.
The Senate rejected this proposal on Monday, and the House sent back another version with only a one-year delay of the individual mandate, in conjunction with an amendment to eliminate the congressional exemption from Obamacare. After the Senate rejected that proposal, the House sent back one final version requesting that the Senate go to conference with the House over a continuing resolution.
Headed into this week of a partial government shutdown, there are several conservative concerns pertaining to a focus on shiny objects.
Medical Device Tax Fig Leaf: Although Harry Reid rejected the medical device tax repeal as part of the Continuing Resolution before the deadline, there is a concern that ultimately Democrats would agree to repeal or a delay of the tax as their final offer. Many Democrats have already expressed support for such a measure. Repealing this pernicious tax would be a win-win for Democrats, as it would allow them to feign compromise, placate the industries, and win the fight without fundamentally altering Obamacare. f they send this back to the House, Republican leaders will be hard pressed to oppose it and will attempt to focus the attention of conservatives on this shiny object.
Eliminating Congressional Exemption: There is also concern that House leaders will respond by further negotiating down their position to another shiny object. They will attempt to pass a clean Continuing Resolution that does nothing to defund or delay Obamacare, but merely eliminates the carve-out that exempts members of Congress from going on the Obamacare exchanges. While this is definitely an issue of fairness and a good talking point, it is really a tangential issue to the heart of Obamacare. Both the medical device tax and the congressional exclusion both serve the purpose of making Obamacare look better, strengthening the Democrats’ position, and making the law harder to repeal in the future – without bringing any relief to the broad public now.
Short Term Continuing Resolution: The other option would be for the House GOP to pass a clean Continuing Resolution for just a week or two and merge the budget fight with the debt ceiling battle towards mid-October. Leadership has been trying to push this idea for a while because they don’t want to capitulate twice. It would be better for them to roll it all into one deal with multiple shiny objects to give conservatives the illusion of a victory without having to face their wrath during a separate debt ceiling showdown. Sen. McConnell is floating this idea, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is not surprisingly following McConnell.
Conference Committee: Although Harry Reid has rejected the idea of going to conference, it is not hard to see how Republicans ultimately capitulate and pass a short-term Continuing Resolution, paving the road for a conference committee to hash out a long term agreement. Reid is demanding a six-week, clean Continuing Resolution.
It’s likely that Republicans would agree to a three- or four-week Continuing Resolution and Reid would accede to a conference request. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has appointed Reps. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Dave Camp (R-MI), Hal Rogers (R-KY), Paul Ryan (R-WI), John Carter (R-TX), Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), and Tom Graves (R-GA) to the conference committee. Graves is the only real conservative committed to fighting Obamacare. Conservatives should be concerned that there will be a short-term capitulation for the purpose of going to conference with a bunch of squishy Republicans. Not only would we lose out on the Obamacare fight, it is likely that the conference would roll up a debt ceiling increase into the deal.
As Obamacare begins taking root, and the public feels the pain of losing their insurance or dealing with skyrocketing rate increases, now is the time to remain strong. Republicans must shift back to a full defund strategy. Instead of watering down their demands, House Republicans should begin passing small appropriations bills funding the essential functions of government, such as Defense, Homeland Security, and the State Department, along with other departments and agencies that are not involved with implementing Obamacare. Any funding for the IRS or Health and Human Services must be withheld until Obamacare is defunded.
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