Ever since Marco Rubio placed himself at great political risk by helping to pass a comprehensive immigration bill through the Senate with broad bipartisan support, his plight has been interesting and instructive to watch. Rubio — having committed the sin of working with Democrats to solve a problem that many members of both parties agree is badly damaging the country and must be fixed — has focused most of his efforts to make amends on developing increasingly strident and logically convoluted arguments in favor of sabotaging Obamacare.
Along these lines, a new Rubio quote is generating some chatter this morning, and it’s worth a look, because it says a lot about why we’re heading into another series of crises this fall. Asked to respond to Republicans who say the push to defund Obamacare is misguided, Rubio said:
“All I’m saying is that you cannot say you are against Obamacare if you are willing to vote for a law that funds it. If you’re willing to fund this thing, you can’t possibly say you’re against it.”
This comes after Rubio noted the other day that if the government ultimately gets shut down over the GOP drive to defund Obamacare, it will be the fault of the President for insisting that his law get funded.
But Rubio’s latest quote is even more illuminating of the anti-Obamacare mindset that will apparently have so much influence over this fall’s budget battles. In Rubio’s telling, mere disagreement with, or mere opposition to, Obamacare in policy terms no longer counts as real opposition. Only trying to destroy the law counts as opposing it. Worse, what this really means is that — since Obamacare isn’t going to get defunded — your opposition to the law is inadequate unless you are advocating for (and continue to feed the base’s expectations for) a fantasy outcome.
The problem is that Republican leaders are under increasing pressure to approach this fall’s battles over funding the government with this as their guiding idea. Republican leaders appear to be trying to dissuade lawmakers from forcing a government shutdown over Obamacare funding, but they are approaching it so tentatively that there is now cause for genuine concern that a shutdown may come to pass. Meanwhile, there are no signs that GOP officials such as Rubio — and Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, and a sizable bloc of diehards in the House — intend to back off their efforts to rally the base behind the total destruction of Obamacare (which is never going to happen) as the only acceptable outcome in this fall’s epic confrontation.
* OBAMA TO PUSH HARD ON ECONOMY THIS MONTH: This is welcome: With Congress on recess, the President is planning a series of events this month designed to focus attention on the economy, in order to seize the high ground from Republicaans who are blocking all of his jobs proposals.
Of course, nothing will move Republicans. But the push is designed to place Obama on the side of the middle class, and define the GOP as the party of job-killing austerity, heading into this fall’s fights over the debt limit and funding the government, in which Republicans will push for still more cuts and threaten still more damage to the economy in the process.
* GOP TRIES TO DODGE BLAME FOR KILLING IMMIGRATION REFORM: The Post has a good editorial recapping the Republican Party’s less than admirable history when it comes to the DREAM Act, and how it casts doubt on the motives of the Republicans who are currently making nice noises about the need to finally do something for the DREAMers:
The smarter money says that the party is simply maneuvering to escape blame for the Republican leadership’s refusal to allow a vote in the House on the sweeping immigration bill passed by the Senate in June.
Doing something just for DREAMers will not solve the GOP’s predicament. But there is something that would begin to solve it: passing comprehensive immigration reform, which GOP leaders can do if they decide they want to.
* MCCONNELL HAS A FIGHT ON HIS HANDS: Alec MacGillis has some good reporting out of Kentucky that illustrates pretty clearly that Mitch McConnell is facing a real challenge from both right (Tea Partyer Matt Bevin) and left (Alison Lundergan Grimes). As MacGillis details, Grimes’challenge is to find a way to attack McConnell as devoted to fomenting Washington gridlock without coming across as overly pro-Obama herself. The question is whether that will be enough to get Kentucky voters to jettison someone this senior representing them.
* KEEP AN EYE ON GEORGIA SENATE RACE: A new survey from the robo-firm Public Policy Polling finds that Democrat Michelle Nunn is locked in a close battle for the Georgia Senate seat with several of the main potential GOP challengers. This — combined with the fact that the GOP primary is a crowded affair — has Dems looking at this race as a potential firewall: If Dems can somehow win in Georgia (or even Kentucky), Republicans will have to sweep four Dem incumbents out of office to take the Senate.
* OBAMA ADMIN FACES “CHALLENGE” IN FIGHTING TEA PARTY OVER OBAMACARE: Health and Human Services Secretary is telling reporters that the administration is fully aware that it faces a “challenge” in dealing with conservative groups who have undertaken an active campaign to dissuade young people from signing on to the exchanges. If young people don’t sign up, it will drive up premiums, undermining the law. The question is whether administration efforts to educate young people about the law will successfully counter the right’s push.
* THE GOP’S WOMEN PROBLEM: An interesting set of factoids, courtesy of National Journal:
Only eight percent of House Republicans are women, and there are only four female Republican senators. Of the long list of potential 2016 GOP presidential contenders, there’s not a single woman.
There’s been a lot of chatter lately about polling showing support for the GOP push to ban late term abortions. But as NJ details, the GOP’s women problem apparently runs a lot deeper — to candidate recruitment and the lack of credible female spokespeople to act as public face on key issues.
* AND TODAY’S PLUM READS:
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee rolls out an interesting experiment: An Open Debate among candidates in which the public submits and votes on questions, so would be office holders are forced to address real public concerns. The five Dems running in the primary for Ed Markey’s House seat have agreed to participate; more here.
Steve Benen catches Politifact stepping it in again: Apparently when Eric Cantor said the deficit is “growing,” that was somehow “half true.”
An important read from Byron York on how the GOP focus on Obamacare could paradoxically let immigration reform end up passing.