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This Week in Washington: Syria and a Continuing Resolution

Government

With the GOP distracted by the Syrian crisis, budget issues and Obamacare loom over America.

This week Congress returns from its summer recess to reconvene one of the most consequential sessions in years. With the government funding deadline looming at the end of the month, and the debt ceiling being breeched around mid-October, the next few weeks will serve as the Waterloo for the GOP Establishment.

Conservatives throughout the country are united in the effort to use our leverage in the budget Continuing Resolution (CR) to defund Obamacare. The establishment is undermining that effort, while concurrently helping Obama distract from the impending Obamacare disaster with extraneous issues. GOP leaders are about to pass a war resolution for an ill-advised half-baked military campaign on behalf of one side of an Islamic civil war in Syria. The next few months will be critical in the battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

Syria

At a time when we should be debating the future of our country as Obamacare begins to take effect, we are caught debating a war resolution over Obama’s plans to get involved in the Syrian civil war. This week the Senate will debate S.J.Res. 21, a resolution authorizing the president to use force, sans ground troops, against the Bashar al-Assad regime over the next 90 days. Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the resolution by a 10-7 vote, with Republicans John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Ranking Member Bob Corker joining most Democrats in support of the Syrian strike.

Conservative concerns:

Taking Sides in Islamic Civil War: It is simply unconscionable that we would risk American lives and money on one side of an Islamic civil war of which the outcome does not affect our national interests. Both sides are arch enemies of us and our allies. Bashar al-Assad is backed by Iran and Russia while the rebels are comprised primarily of an eclectic group of Al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood fighters. These rebels are supported by the Islamic regime in Turkey. This is a prime opportunity for our enemies to self-destruct. Why would we possibly tip the scales to one side?

No Objective: Aside for the fact that we have nothing to gain from such intervention, it is unclear what we would accomplish from some targeted air strikes. The death of civilians is a sad reality of any civil war, and a temporary strike on Assad would not stop the long-term fatalities that will continue to result from atrocities committed by both terrorist factions. As for chemical weapons, it is unclear that only Assad’s forces have used them, and as long as they are not brought outside the country, there is no purpose in attacking one side for using them. Are we prepared to get involved in every civil war in which one of the bad actors uses those weapons?

Distraction from Obamacare: Perhaps, the biggest casualty of this deleterious distraction is that the country will be focused on this foreign operation for the next few weeks – a time that must be spent fighting Obamacare. Moreover, Obama is attempting to foment a “rally around the commander-in-chief” dynamic to blunt any offensive against Obamacare in the budget bill.

Outlook:

In both houses of Congress there are two factions who oppose the Syrian escapade: liberals who consistently oppose the use of military force and conservatives who understand that this is not our fight. The establishment elements of both parties are uniting behind this bipartisan blunder. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, and Eric Cantor have all signed off on the Syria strike. Amazingly, Mitch McConnell, the Senate GOP leader, has refused to offer his views on the issue. The fact that the GOP leader is not leading the fight against this travesty is opening the door for Obama and Reid to whip up enough Republican votes to get to 60.

However, the resolution faces a much tougher path in the House where well over half of the GOP conference is in opposition, in conjunction with a number of progressive House members. [The Washington Post has a full breakdown of the whip count.] Conservatives need to watch out for phony compromises that water down the resolution but continue to waste our time on this illogical intervention.

Republicans should refuse to consider this resolution and immediately begin fighting Obamacare in the Continuing Resolution. This war is illogical, inconsistent, and unpopular. It would be bad politics and bad policy for Republicans to afford Obama this distraction for even one more day.

Budget and a Continuing Resolution

With the deadline to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2014 expiring on October 1- the very day the Obamacare exchanges are set to open – we have one last opportunity to defund Obamacare before it begins to take root. The Founders established a bicameral legislature, in part, to vest the power of the purse in the hands of those closest to the people. Given that the Republicans control the House, they have the power to pass a government funding bill with a rider defunding Obamacare. The onus would then be upon the Senate to fund the government or force a shutdown in order to save Obama’s unpopular and unworkable law.

Sadly, House Republicans plan to pass a short-term Continuing Resolution, possibly this week, funding the government until mid-December – without any effort to defund Obamacare. Look for Republican leadership in both the House and Senate to focus on a few shiny objects to distract conservatives. They will tout the fact that the budget bill is preserving the sequester cuts to discretionary spending. They will also distract with standalone efforts to repeal Obamacare or parts of the law.

On Wednesday, the House will consider the No Subsidies Without Verification Act, H.R. 2775, which would require verification of eligibility before accessing the Obamacare health insurance subsidies. Obviously, these laws will never see any daylight in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Republicans are willing to do anything to disrupt Obamacare, except for when it will actually force the issue; namely, in a Continuing Resolution.

Conservative Concerns:

Debt Ceiling Bait-and-Switch: GOP leaders are saying that the purpose of punting on the Continuing Resolution is so they can fight more aggressively on the debt ceiling fight, which is scheduled to commence some time in October. The problem is that they have said this a half dozen times since taking over the House in 2011.

In fact, this past January, Republicans agreed to suspend the debt ceiling so they could fight on the March Continuing Resolution. In reality, it is much harder to engage in brinkmanship over the debt ceiling because of the hype over a default. Hence, any promise to fight on the harder battle is laughable. Ultimately, they have no plans to defund Obamacare using either point of leverage.

Sequester Charade: Once again, the sequester is the shiny object. But didn’t we already lock in the sequester in March? Wasn’t that already used to sugar-coat the bitter pill of funding Obamacare in March? Why recycle it? Are we going to put a double lock in it?

As the clock winds down to October 1, conservatives must remain focused solely on defunding Obamacare. There is nothing more important or timely than our last opportunity to block implementation of the worst law in American history.

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