August 22, 2013

Eighty House Republicans wrote a letter today to John Boehner and Eric Cantor. It is getting attention because it reiterates the conservative demand that the House GOP leadership hold firm in the fight to defund the law — perhaps a sign the defund-Obamacare push is gaining momentum.

While that’s certainly noteworthy, the rationale offered in the letter for pursuing this course is also interesting:

More and more Americans are now feeling its impact — from job losses and part-time downgrades, to insurance policy changes and violations of religious liberties, to state budget strains caused by Medicaid expansions. Americans don’t like these impacts. Most Americans still believe that health care should be controlled by patients and doctors, not by the government.

Moreover, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS, an agency now publicly known to have deliberately discriminated against conservative entities, pro-Israel groups, and other organizations, is charged by law with enforcing significant portions of ObamaCare. IRS enforcement of a law Americans do not like in the first place is a double-whammy that is totally unacceptable.

Therefore, we should continue our efforts to repeal ObamaCare in its entirety this year, next year, and until we are successful.

The letter goes on to demand House GOP leaders “affirmatively defund the implementation and enforcement of ObamaCare in any relevant appropriations bill.”

And there you have it. Around one-third of House Republicans believe the push to defund Obamacare is justified in large part because it is a government takeover of health care and because of the IRS scandal.

Now, there’s no question ObamaCare leads to more government oversight of the health care system — progressives see that as a good thing — but this notion that Obamacare will mean government will “control” the whole health care system is an idea GOP leaders have pushed for literally years now. They ran on the “government takeover of health care” line way back in 2010, making it PolitiFact’s “Lie Of The Year,” and the claim has continued unabated ever since. As for the notion that the IRS scandal is the basis for continuing to get rid of the health law, that was official GOP messaging this spring.

All of which is to say that Republican leaders have relentlessly given voice to the same fabricated and crazy reasons for repeal that conservatives are now citing as justification to insist that those same GOP leaders block the law by any means necessary. If all of the stuff Republican leaders have been saying about the law were true, wouldn’t conservatives be right in demanding maximum resistance to it, even if it’s politically destructive to the GOP?

As Brian Beutler puts it, after “three years of being told Obamacare is an extential threat to the country,” it’s hardly surprising that conservatives are angry that “Republican leaders are unwilling to test the limits of their power in order to end the law.” As Beutler notes, this goes well beyond Obamacare to also encompass years of GOP deceptions about how spending is such a threat to the country that we must balance the budget in 10 years with no new revenues (something the transportation bill fiasco proved Republicans won’t actually do):

And now that Cruz, Lee, et al have opportunistically twinned Obamacare and the budget process in the minds of conservative voters, and GOP leaders are showing no interest in joining the fight, those voters are coming correctly to the conclusion that they’ve been lied to.

It’s no surprise that in their letter demanding defunding, 80 House conservatives cite James Madison and Federalist No. 58, concluding: “We look forward to collaborating to defund one of the largest grievances in our time.” GOP officials in positions of real influence have been saying this kind of stuff for years.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.