“Shutting down the government just because I’m for keeping it open? That’s not an economic plan,” President Barack Obama said in Florida last month.
“Defunding the Affordable Care Act is not achievable through shutting down the federal government,” parroted Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.
As Republican senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio keep repeating, they aim to shut down nothing. They want a continuing resolution that funds the entire federal government, except for the new health-care reform law. If Obama signs such a measure, the Federal Aviation Administration will keep controlling jet traffic and the FBI will keep tracking terrorists. But Obamacare’s cash will evaporate, as well it should.
Conversely, if Obama vetoes such a budget bill, he — not Republicans — may jeopardize federal operations while ignoring the 54 percent of Americans who disapproved of Obamacare in the latest Rasmussen survey.
Republican lawmakers should stop quivering in fear of a president with a 44 percent Gallup job-approval rating. With a little courage and creativity, Republicans could fight the defunding battle effectively.
First, Republicans control the House of Representatives, the birthplace of spending bills. They should exercise their constitutional power and imminently consider language that funds everything but Obamacare.
Second, Republicans should adopt the left’s practice of giving bills delicious titles. How can they counter liberal claims that they want to padlock Washington? Call their Obamacare-defunding vehicle the Keep Government Open Act of 2013.
Third, the House should pass this bill immediately after Congress reconvenes Sept. 10. This legislation then would define the public debate until Oct. 1. Democrats cannot accuse Republicans of closing the government if the GOP gives Senate Democrats and Obama nearly three weeks to respond to the House proposal.
This early vote also will put House Democrats on the record. Do they stand with Americans who face rising premiums and are losing their insurance, even if they like it, or do they stand with Obama, who illegally has decreed exemptions and delays to keep Obamacare wheezing along?
Fourth, with news cameras present, House Republicans should march this physical bill across the U.S. Capitol. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, should declare: “We hereby deliver this measure to the Democratic Senate to complete the people’s work and keep America’s government open.”
Fifth, while the Senate debates this bill, House hearings throughout September should showcase Obamacare’s victims. These might include Americans who now work part time, as their employers confront Obamacare’s rising costs. Medical-device manufacturers should detail how Obamacare’s fresh tax is unplugging new treatments. Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa Jr. should explain why he wrote Obamacare would “destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week.”
If public pressure prods enough Democrats to join Republicans in defunding Obamacare, perhaps Obama himself will accept this for one year.
Failing that, the GOP fallback position may be to place the program’s funds in escrow in exchange for a one-year implementation delay.
Some Republicans would let Obamacare rip. Once functioning, they argue, Obamacare’s costs will explode as its “benefits” collapse. The rebellious American people then will demand to have Obamacare’s fangs dislodged from their necks. But how?
Repealing Obamacare post-implementation still will require congressional approval and Obama’s signature. If that, essentially, is the battle Republicans would wage later, why not sooner?
Defunding vs. repeal is no either-or proposition. It’s both: If a hostile tank prepares to roll into town and unleash doom, go look for anti-tank grenades. Meanwhile, drain its fuel.
Deroy Murdock is a columnist syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service, a contributor to Fox News and a media fellow with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace.