From my vantage point during the past two weeks — 4,000 miles or so from Washington and following the news in only a perfunctory fashion — the debate within the Republican Party over bringing about a government shutdown in order to halt Obamacare seems meaningless and rather farcical. There simply aren’t 40 Republican Senators who are willing to go that route.
The debate, therefore, is more about posturing than about actually shutting down the government and/or taking down Obamacare. For example, the debate provides Marco Rubio with the opportunity to get back on the good side of the Tea Party. And neither Ted Cruz nor Mike Lee can afford to be to Rubio’s left on an issue as fundamental as Obamacare.
I don’t mean to suggest that Cruz and Lee are insincere about their willingness to bring about a government shutdown. More likely than not, if they had the final say, they would pull the trigger.
In any event, it’s probably a good thing that the shut-down option is a non-starter. The chances of killing Obamacare via this method are practically nil. First, a bill that would shut down the government wouldn’t affect most of Obamacare. Second, the Republicans almost certainly wouldn’t win the showdown with Obama over the rest of Obamacare.
By contrast, a shutdown might well provide the Democrats a needed shot-in-the-arm. It could doom Republican chances of winning the Senate in 2014 and jeopardize their prospects of retaining control of the House.
If the Democrats were to take control of the House, a Democrat-controlled Senate could be expected promptly to change the rules to enable the passage of legislation with a simple majority. Thus, the Dems would be able to enact egregious legislation like Obamacare during the President’s last two years in office.
Which, of course, is why the Republican votes aren’t there to bring about a government shutdown.