We’re 11 days from a possible shutdown of the federal government over congressional Republicans’ refusal to authorize any spending that includes the implementation of Obamacare. Here’s a roundup of illuminating observations on how we got here and what comes next.
James C. Capretta and Jeffrey H. Anderson reveal the end game in the Weekly Standard: “If all or crucial parts of Obamacare are delayed, then the signature legislation of Obama’s presidency will look anything but inevitable—and if it can be delayed once, it can be delayed again and again, and then repealed.”
Jonathan Chait in New York magazine, explains why Obamacare (officially, the Affordable Care Act) is as divisive as ever:
The transformation of Obamacare from a close relative of Republicans’ own health-care ideas to the locus of evil in modern life is owing to several things, including the almost tautological political fact that its success would be Obama’s: Permanent health-care reform would define Obama as a Reaganesque transformative figure, rather than the failure conservatives still hope him to be remembered as. The law’s slow rollout has made it a live issue, unlike the already-expired stimulus, and thus the main receptacle for simmering concerns over unemployment and the tepid economic recovery.
Dylan Matthews in the Washington Post, cites a historical precedent in his conclusion to “Everything You Need to Know About Why the Government Might Shut Down”: “We’re only two weeks from doomsday, and [House Speaker John] Boehner knows all too well the damage that the 1995-96 shutdowns did to his predecessor, [Newt] Gingrich. Whether his caucus will accept a deal he cuts with Obama, however, is another question.”
Josh Barro, in Business Insider, gives the math on why the shutdown might happen regardless of any lessons from the 1990s:
If you believe the press accounts, there are 30 or 40 House Republicans who won’t vote for a continuing resolution that funds Obamacare. With 30 defections, Speaker John Boehner can’t get what he desperately wants: 217 Republican votes for a bill that protects his key spending priority (maintaining low spending levels from sequestration) while avoiding a fight over Obamacare…. People talk about the “radicalized House GOP” but on this particular issue, most House Republicans aren’t radicalized. They’ve been dragged into this fight, unwillingly...
“The Fix” column, in the Washington Post, elaborates: “These negotiations have increasingly become blinking contests, and Defund Obamacare advocates aren’t going to be happy until Senate Democrats are faced with a choice between a government shutdown and defunding Obamacare. Anything else will be seen as a token effort.”
Utah Senator Mike Lee (R), one of the leaders of the defund-Obamacare effort, tells the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack that it’s actually the Democratic Party who will suffer from a shutdown: “To go to the American people and to say we’re going to halt all funding for soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and for other essential government programs and all these people will go without paychecks for the simple reason that we [in Congress] are not willing to fund Obamacare… I don’t think they’re going to be in a good position to do that.”
But Ezra Klein, in the Washington Post, argues that Obama is less likely to negotiate with Republicans than he was two years ago:
The White House believed, in its gut, that Republicans had been given a mandate in the 2010 elections to extract exactly the kind of concessions they were demanding. In addition, the White House believed President Obama would be a likelier bet for reelection if he could cut a “grand bargain” with the newly resurgent Republicans, taking their key issue away from them.
This year, it’s the White House that won the last election, and so they see no popular legitimacy behind Republican demands.
Jonathan Bernstein is optimistic that a spending bill, or Continuing Resolution, will ultimately be hammered out: “the Ritual of Conservative Obedience —the defund-Obamacare CR vote now scheduled for Friday—doesn’t make the final deal any more difficult.”
But Robert Kuttner, in the American Prospect, worries that the final deal may still be a terrible one for Democrats:
If Republicans do force a government shutdown, at some point they will have to back down and allow the government to re-open. And at that point, there would be pressure on President Obama to give them some cover by offering other cuts. Not ObamaCare, of course—just minor stuff like Social Security, Medicare, education, food stamps, Head Start, and the rest.
Finally, Jonathan Cohn, in the New Republic, worries that media coverage of the possible shutdown is missing the point: “Does insisting on Obamacare defunding and delay defy political logic? Yes. But it’s the substantive claims Republicans make—the argument that a world without Obamacare is better than a world with one—that deserve the most scrutiny.”
Full disclosure: As a self-employed single person, I buy health insurance through a state-run exchange that’s a key component of Obamacare. I wouldn’t be affected by the repeal of Obamacare because Massachusetts had already set up a similar system on its own, including a mandate that everyone must acquire health insurance. It was signed into law by Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006. I pay $359 a month for a basic policy without dental coverage.
Photo of U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) from Tea Party.org.