September 23, 2013

There’s a ton of chatter about today’s CNBC poll, which finds overwhelming opposition to ongoing conservative efforts to sabotage Obamacare. The poll finds that even without a shutdown Americans oppose defunding by 44 percent to 38 percent.  Steve Liesman has the rest of the gory details from the internals, and they’re striking:

Opposition to defunding increases sharply when the issue of shutting down the government and defaulting is included. In that case, Americans oppose defunding 59 percent to 19 percent, with 18 percent of respondents unsure. [...]

A 51 percent majority of Republicans generally support defunding with 36 percent opposed and 13 percent unsure. However, when including the issue of a government shutdown and default, the picture changes: 48 percent of Republicans oppose defunding Obamacare, while 36 percent support it.

However, a 54 percent majority of Republicans who also identify themselves as Tea Party supporters want the new health care law defunded even if it means a government shutdown – the only demographic measured in the poll with such a majority. Republicans who do not identify themselves as Tea Party supporters… oppose defunding Obamacare 44 percent to 36 percent with 20 percent unsure.

Independents…oppose defunding by a slight plurality of 44 percent to 40 percent. However, when the issue of shutting down the government is included, opposition to the measure swells to 65 percent, while support drops to just 14 percent.

Only Republicans who identify themselves as Tea Partyers want the law defunded even if it means a shutdown. Non-Tea Party Republicans don’t want it. Neither do independents. Neither do Americans overall.

This is mirrored by other polls. A survey taken by David Winston, the House GOP leadership’s pollster, found that Americans oppose a shutdown to defund Obamacare by 71-23; even Republicans oppose it by 53-37. A poll taken for Crossroads GPS found that majorities of independents in competitive districts oppose defunding Obamacare if it risks a shutdown — even though majorities of them disapprove of the law. A recent Pew poll similarly found that despite broad disapproval of Obamacare, only 23 percent of Americans want lawmakers to try to make it fail. Fewer than half of Republicans want that.

And so, it may finally be sinking in that disapproval of the law does not translate into public support for GOP efforts to undermine it. But it also should be pointed out that a majority in both houses of Congress almost certainly opposes a shutdown, too. At this point it’s clear a filibuster-proof majority of the Senate would vote to continue funding the government at current levels. Meanwhile, it’s also very likely a majority in the House would vote for both of those things, too. By that I mean a majority of Members overall, not a majority of House Republicans.

So a majority of Americans oppose shutdown sabotage. A majority of independents opposes it. Large blocs of Republicans oppose it. Majorities in both houses of Congress almost certainly oppose it. What’s the holdup, then? The question of whether the House GOP leadership will allow a vote on funding the government at current levels — without defunding Obamacare — in defiance of Tea Party voters and lawmakers.

House Republican leaders, of course, can pass funding keeping the government open with the help of a lot of Democrats. Ironically enough, such funding — at sequester levels — would actually be a real victory for Republicans. But Tea Party conservatives have defined anything short of Total War against Obamacare as surrender, and GOP leaders are allowing them to wield outsized influence over the process. The result, as Politico’s David Rogers notes in a must read, is that something is being lost: the spirit of Congress as “535 vessels of democracy chosen by the people to govern in the same spirit that they were elected.”

If there is to be a government shutdown crisis, it’s only because the far right wing of the GOP wants it — and because GOP leaders prove willing to give it to them.

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