House Leadership Decides to Take On Obamacare

Speaker John Boehner announced today that the House’s Republican leadership will bring on for a vote, on Friday, a continuing resolution that funds government operations beyond September, but does not include Obamacare. This is the “defund Obamacare” gambit that many conservatives have been clamoring for. Presumably the continuing resolution, without Obamacare, will pass the Republican House. What then?

The Senate obviously will refuse to pass the same CR, and instead will pass one that includes Obamacare. Thus begins a game of chicken: someone’s continuing resolution must pass by the end of the month, or the federal government will “shut down,” at least in part. Some conservatives think it is a foregone conclusion that Boehner will blink, and the House will eventually go along with the Senate’s CR, while promising to fight the Obamacare battle again, soon, in the context of the upcoming debt ceiling debate. Where, those same conservatives believe, Boehner and the House leadership will blink again.

That is a plausible scenario. But suppose for a moment that the long-debated shutdown actually happens. What will the consequences be? One might think that if the House and Senate can’t agree on a funding measure and the government runs out of money as a result, “blame” would be allocated equally. But experience tells us this isn’t the case: Republicans are always blamed for government shutdowns, regardless of the circumstances. Some polls, at least, suggest that this would happen again:

Polls show that if the government does shut down, the public would blame Republicans by a wide margin. Last week, a CNN poll found that 51 percent would blame the GOP and 33 percent would blame Obama.

On the other hand, Obamacare is increasingly unpopular. We might be reaching a tipping point where the anti-Obamacare consensus is so strong that voters will cheer, rather than condemn, measures to stop it that in other contexts might be regarded as extreme. I suspect that Republican leaders are encouraged by poll results like this one: Scott Rasmussen finds that a slim majority of voters are OK with a shutdown if it means Obamacare can be cut back:

51% of voters favor having a partial government shutdown until Democrats and Republicans agree on what spending for the health care law to cut. Forty percent (40%) would rather avoid a government shutdown by authorizing spending for the health care law at existing levels.

Today’s announcement by House Republicans is equivalent to an opening kickoff. How matters proceed from here is anyone’s guess. If nothing else, Washington Republicans have tried to show the party’s conservative base that they are serious about trying to prevent the implementation of Obamacare.

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