WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – The plan originally hatched by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Utah Senator Mike Lee to either shutdown the government or default on the debt limit if the Affordable Care Act isn’t defunded is fracturing the Republican Party ahead of key fiscal deadlines.
The plan also fails to accomplish any of what Senators Rubio, Cruz, and Lee actually want. According to Senator Tom Coburn (R-Ok), almost all of the spending on the ACA is mandatory spending and will not be impacted by a government shutdown threat over a continuing budget resolution because the CR would only impact discretionary spending.
Plus, a continuing budget resolution passed by the House with language “defunding” the ACA would then be moved to the Senate where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) can strip the language out with a simple majority vote and then try to pass the CR clean and send it back to the House for another vote.
Cruz infuriated GOP members in the House on Wednesday when he admitted the plan had little support in the Senate and said it was up to the House to “stand firm.” Cruz even refused to say if he would back a filibuster, even though he was the most vocal leader of the defund crowd during the summer.
The plan by Speaker of the House John Boehner is to pass a bill this week with the defunding of the Affordable Care Act contained in it. Boehner’s plan gives the more conservative members of the House exactly what they wanted, but mainstream Republicans are sounding major alarm bells.
Former George W. Bush adviser Nicole Wallace called it “idiotic” to threaten a government shutdown or debt default over ACA funding.
“When Republicans run into the street, despite the fact there is a flashing red light, they’re going to get hit by the cars and killed,” Wallace told MSNBC, according to Politico.com. “So this is stupid politically. This is stupid at a policy level because…it has no chance of succeeding.”
The plan is also being chided by former George W. Bush campaign and policy architect Karl Rove and the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board. Rove took to the pages of the Journal Thursday to explain why the plan to shut down the government was doomed to fail.
Rove said that polling conducted for his political action committee, Crossroads GPS, found that by a 58 to 30 percent margin, independents oppose defunding ObamaCare if it risks even a short government shutdown.
Rove continued saying that independents would side with Democrats by a 57-35 percent margin under a government shutdown. Further, Rove said voters in Senate battleground states would side with the president by a 59-33 percent margin and in leaning-Republican Congressional swing districts and in swing districts, voters sided with Democrats by a 56-39 percent and 58-33 percent margin respectively.
Rove ended his editorial thusly, “The desire to strike at ObamaCare is praiseworthy. But any strategy to repeal, delay or replace the law must have a credible chance of succeeding or affecting broad public opinion positively. The defunding strategy doesn’t. Going down that road would strengthen the president while alienating independents. It is an ill-conceived tactic, and Republicans should reject it.”
However, even a once dominant conservative voice like Rove’s is falling on deaf ears in the increasingly ideologically ridged GOP House. Rove is trying to save the GOP from themselves as the party moves down the road to shut down, or worse, a debt default.
The CR’s path in the Senate isn’t a given. Senator Reid could usually depend on a few moderate House Republicans to vote to end a filibuster on an issue as important as keeping the government funded. But, in the hyper-partisan Washington of today, that would equal surrender and that could cost a Senator a seat.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has typically been one of the Senators who could be counted on to help negotiate the treacherous waters between tea party extremism and more moderate governing.
But, McConnell is facing a tea party primary challenger and can’t be seen negotiating or working with Democrats or the White House for fear of losing face amongst the primary voters in Kentucky.
Senators and House Representatives have perilously few days to come up with a solution that seems further away than ever. There are only five official legislative days left on the calendar before October 1 when a funding bill is needed.
The tea party plans to stand firm on an ideological stance and put a figurative gun to the head of the U.S. economy through a government shutdown and threatened debt default in order to get their way on policy.
But, as multiple Congressional representatives and media pundits have said; if you take a hostage, you have to be willing to shoot it. If the tea party carries through with the current approach; the only question will be how far the economy and standing of the United States falls if more level-headed members of Congress and the Senate decide to take a stand.