This week will likely be the critical turning point in the battle over the government-funding bill, and by extension, the battle to defund Obamacare. Conservatives have united behind a proposal to defund Obamacare in a must-pass budget bill. Meanwhile, Obamacare continues to become more unpopular by the hour. The Senate will also consider an ill-conceived green energy bill, which unfortunately enjoys robust Republican support.
Budget Continuing Resolution/Defund Obamacare
It has become quite evident over the past few years that Republican leadership in the House and Senate are terrified of engaging in brinkmanship in order to get rid of Obamacare. Over the next two weeks, we will see a number of proposals put forth by the establishment Republicans to distract conservatives with shiny objects and avoid a direct confrontation over Obamacare. Conservatives must stay united behind their pledge to oppose any budget continuing resolution)t that does not fully defund Obamacare.
Last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor floated the first trial balloon with what is now being referred to as the “hocus pocus plan.” The plan essentially called for defunding Obamacare in the continuing resolution, but upon passage the bill would have split into two components – a general funding bill and a separate defunding Obamacare bill. This would have allowed the Democrat-controlled Senate to pass the clean resolution while rejecting the defunding portion, eventually sending the non-defund version straight to Obama’s desk without ever returning to the House. This plan was designed to shield Republican members from voting against defund, while concurrently ensuring that defund is never forced through. Thankfully, conservatives in the House killed this plan on the spot.
As we head into the new week, conservatives have coalesced behind Rep. Tom Grave’s resolution which would completely defund Obamacare until 2015 while funding the rest of the government for another full year (H.J.Res. 62). As of today, the bill has 49 co-sponsors. Conservatives must demand that the House immediately pass the Graves bill and drop it on Sen. Harry Reid’s desk. If he wants to shut down the government in order to throw people off their health insurance, that is his prerogative.
Conservatives must also be prepared to block some new proposals from leadership that will contain red herrings and more shiny objects:
·Defer to the Debt Ceiling: Over the past three years, GOP leadership has been playing a ‘Lucy and the Football’ game with the rank-and-file members when it comes to fighting Obamacare. Whenever we are approaching a budget deadline, they ask to defer the fight until the debt ceiling. Whenever we are approaching the debt ceiling fight, they ask members to hold their fire for the next continuing resolution. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is already promising to fight on the debt ceiling instead of the CR. The reality is that leadership is either scared or unwilling to use any leverage point to force the issue, certainly not a debt ceiling which raises the specter of a so-called default on our debt obligations.
·Sequester: You will hear a lot of focus on the need to keep the sequester cuts in the continuing resolution and worry about Obamacare another time. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already attempted to shift the focus to the sequester. The problem is that we already locked in the sequester cuts. This is no longer a serious point of contention. Moreover, a few billion in random discretionary spending cuts pail in magnetite to the importance of fighting Obamacare.
·Delay instead of defund: Rep. Paul Ryan and other pseudo-conservative groups outside of Congress are pushing an alternative plan to delay Obamacare for a year, and use the savings to get rid of the sequester. This plan is designed to break the conservative unity on the defund effort. The fact is that leadership has already telegraphed the message to Democrats that they will blink first in a game of brinkmanship – whether it’s over defunding or delaying Obamacare. Why would we start negotiating down our proposal from defund to delay if leadership won’t stand by the delay effort either?
Senate Green Energy Bill
It’s not just that Republicans in Washington are unwilling to rollback existing big government programs. They actually continue expanding and adding programs to distort the private sector and centrally plan our economy from Washington. The latest gimmick is the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013 (S. 761), sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (‘R’-OH).
S. 761, which already has a number of Republican supporters, would continue the federal government’s venture socialism into green energy social engineering. The bill creates a new voluntary building code (yes, as if modern construction is not already plagued by cheap materials) which would be used to incentivize states and localities to construct more “green” buildings. The Department of [Green] Energy would offer grants to states for the purpose of establishing loan guarantees to private entities that follow the new building code. The government would also subsidize training and research for building more energy efficient buildings.
There are a number of problems with this bill:
·Like every government subsidy program to incentivize supposed good economic behavior, if these building codes are really so profitable and desirable, the private sector would pursue them without government help.
·Like most voluntary green energy ideas, this one will eventually transform into a mandate. Consumers will then be limited to using construction services and materials that are approved under this program.
·Like most green energy programs, the DOE will carefully craft the grant programs to benefit liberal crony capitalists who can’t sell their product or service in the free market without the extra boost from government.
Every bill on the Senate floor presents us with an opportunity to offer amendments on a host of issues. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) is proposing an amendment to eliminate the Obamacare carve-out for members of Congress, the Executive Branch, and their staffs. As we all know, under Obamacare many Americans will indeed lose their health insurance and be forced into the dependency and incompetence of the Obamacare exchanges. As is the case with other bills, members of Congress wish not to stew in the misery they create. To that end, the Office of Personnel Management created a new rule exempting federal workers from Obamacare, enabling them to keep their current taxpayer-subsidized Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan.
Senator Vitter is proposing an amendment to eliminate this carve-out. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has a similar bill in the House (HR 3076). Unlike some other proposals to “tweak” Obamacare, this one would actually place members of Congress in a tough situation. This carve-out is extremely unpopular with the public, and even supporters of Obamacare would have a hard time voting to retain their own exemption. Yet, amazingly, some top GOP staffers are helping Democrats block Vitter’s amendment from the floor.
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