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A Boehner Blunder?

I’m afraid so. Yesterday the House passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for the next few months, with multiple riders: a one-year delay in Obamacare, repeal of the medical device tax, protection of servicemen’s salaries, and postponement of Obamacare’s requirement that employers pay for their employees’ birth control. The House package violates the most basic principle of negotiation: you should bargain for something that 1) you want, and 2) there is a chance you might get.

Republicans should not want to delay Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster that will crash on take-off. Necessary infrastructure is not in place for Obamacare to operate. Why give the Democrats another year to get their act together? And what, exactly, is the point of a one-year delay? If Republicans are right about the bill’s inherent defects–and they are–it will only postpone the inevitable, to the GOP’s political detriment. Michael Ramirez has it right:

The saving grace, I suppose, is that there is zero chance the Senate will agree to postpone Obamacare. But, then again, what is the point? Democrats will accuse Republicans of playing political games, and they will be more or less correct.

Beyond that, the House approach suffers from too much complexity. Given the exigencies of the current situation, the House should have bargained for just one thing. Repeal of the medical device tax wouldn’t have been a bad choice. If that were the only rider, it would have put Democrats like my own senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, in a tough spot. They are both reliable far-left votes, but both are on record as opposing the device tax. If that were the only addition to a “clean” CR, they would face a tough vote, and Franken is up for re-election next year. But by larding up the CR with multiple issues, including postponement of Obamacare, Boehner has taken senators like Franken and Klobuchar off the hook. Moreover, the entire medical device issue will be lost in the shuffle because of the needless complexity of the House’s approach.

So what happens next? The House’s approach takes the pressure off Harry Reid and the Democrats, so the Dems will get what they want: a government shutdown, at least for a brief time. Democrats must be thanking their lucky stars; they desperately needed something to take voters’ attention away from Obamacare, the economy, and the many scandals and disasters of the Obama administration, and now House Republicans have given them what they wanted. It is an unfortunate, self-inflicted wound.

UPDATE: Michele Bachmann explains to Byron York why Republicans shouldn’t fear a shutdown. I hope she is right, but she doesn’t explain why a one-year delay in Obamacare is the hill Republicans should fight on. It seems to me that the Republicans’ valiant but unsuccessful efforts have demonstrated that they can kill Obamacare only if they control both houses of Congress, which means that the focus should be on 2014.

And, in any event, Boehner’s approach is, in my view, politically maladroit–all the more important if you assume a shutdown is coming.

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