September 23, 2013

As we head into the week that will help determine whether House Republicans stick to their crusade to defund or delay Obamacare, which could result in a government shutdown and possibly default after that, Senator Ted Cruz has penned a new op ed piece for Real Clear Politics that provides new clues to where all of this is headed.

Embedded in Cruz’s op ed is a tacit admission that his scheme may well fail. But never fear — Cruz has figured out a way to keep right on blaming House Republicans, and the GOP establishment, if and when that happens.

As you know, House Republicans have passed a bill temporarily funding the government at current sequester levels while defunding Obamacare. Senate Dems are likely to amend that bill to strip out the Obamacare defunding and send it back to the House. But Cruz says that doesn’t have to happen. Cruz is calling on Senate Republicans to stand united in filibustering this bill before Reid can pass any changes to it via a simple majority vote:

The next step is critical. Senate Republicans should demand a 60-vote threshold for any effort that would add Obamacare funding back into the House bill. This is the battle line: Senate Republicans must stop Reid from rejecting the House bill and adding Obamacare funding with merely 51 votes.

Cruz reiterated this demand on Fox News Sunday. As Jonathan Chait notes, calling on Republicans to filibuster their own defund-Obamacare bill is absurd on its face. It will fail in any case, because a number of Senate Republicans think the defund-Obamacare scheme is bat-bleep insane.

But Cruz’s strategy gets even more absurd than this. Pay close attention to what Cruz’s op ed says about what should come after that:

The House should stand its ground, and if Reid kills this Continuing Resolution then the House should pass smaller CRs one at a time, starting with the military. Dare Reid to keep voting to shut down the government.

Get it? This will be back on House Republicans again. If and when the defund scheme fails in the Senate, House Republicans must only fund the government piecemeal, without funding Obamacare, in a series of smaller votes, daring Dems to vote No each time, until Dems cave and agree to unwind the President’s signature domestic accomplishment! In that scenario, however, Obamacare wouldn’t be defunded, since much of the funding is mandatory, and beyond that, the notion that Republicans would prevail politically in that scenario is extraordinarily far fetched.

What Cruz is really doing here is coming up with another way to blame anyone but himself for the ultimate failure of his scheme. If House Republican leaders don’t agree to this piecemeal strategy later, they’re selling out conservatives!!!

Ultimately, Ted Cruz is ensuring that the base’s continuing anti-Obamacare rage — which may well only intensify if and when the defund scheme fails — must be directed at fellow Republicans for failing to show the fortitude to stop Obamacare when it really counted, i.e., before implementation kicks in, rather than squarely at Obama and Democrats. This, of course, is a better outcome for Ted Cruz than having conservatives realize his defund-Obamacare con game never stood any chance of success to begin with, and that he probably knew it all along.

* POLL FINDS BROAD OPPOSITION TO SHUTDOWN SHENANIGANS: New numbers on the coming shutdown fight:

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey of 800 people across the country conducted by Hart-McInturff, finds that Americans oppose defunding Obamacare by a 44 percent to 38 percent plurality. But support for defunding drops off 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 unsure.

More on this later, but for now, this is yet more evidence that disapproval of Obamacare doesn’t translate into support for GOP efforts to sabotage it. Also, if this poll is right, by sticking to this strategy, Republicans are ministering to fewer than one in five Americans.

* CRUZ’S NEW STRATEGY ISN’T GONNA WORK: Steve Benen finds a gaping hole in Cruz’s new game plan:

Even if Senate Republicans felt overwhelming pressure from unhinged Tea Party activists and actually endorsed this scheme, they’d make it impossible to blame Democrats for the shutdown — GOP senators have created the shutdown by filibustering their own bill.

Good luck with that. Also see Jonathan Bernstein’s gaming out of what happens if there is a shutdown.

* GOP GOVERNORS EMBRACE REALITY OF OBAMACARE: E.J. Dionne has a must read on Republican governors from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan who are embracing forms of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, and in so doing, are acknowledging what the law actually does:

These chief executives usually follow the party line in being critical of the health law in principle. But they have responsibilities that the radical ideologues in Washington don’t have — to their local hospitals, to their economies and, yes, to their constituents among the working poor who now lack insurance. They understand the difference between “Obamacare” as a right-wing bogeyman and the Affordable Care Act as a reality.

As I noted here recently, this is another area where it will be hard to make the case for repealing Obamacare as its benefits kick in, making the law a concrete reality experienced by Republican lawmakers’ own constituents.

* HUGE BATTLE OVER ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS LOOMS: The Hill rightly notes that if the EPA’s proposed carbon regulations become law, it will constitute a major victory for Obama’s climate change agenda. For this reason, industry is vowing an epic fight. It’s worth noting that the fact that Obama can only secure victories on climate change via executive action underscores just how paralyzed Congress is from acting on such a major problem.

* GOP VOWS TO MAKE DEMS PAY FOR FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE: National Journal reports that national Republican strategists plan to make Dem members of Congress and candidates pay politically in 2014 for supporting Obama’s climate change agenda. This is key:

The focus of the campaigns will not be on undermining the science of climate change. Many Republicans are vocal deniers of the established science of climate change — an issue on which Democrats are now hammering them.

Republicans won’t question the science of climate change, but only the Dem policy response to it. Of course, that allows Dems to counter that even Republicans admit the science is settled, and ask them what they would do about the problem.

* THE GOP’S  WAR ON THE “TAKERS”: Paul Krugman’s column today takes apart the “makers versus takers” rhetoric driving House GOP cuts to food stamps, noting that the assistance is a pittance and that most beneficiaries are elderly, disabled, or children, who are less likely to need assistance later if given food stamps now:

SNAP, in short, is public policy at its best. It not only helps those in need; it helps them help themselves. And it has done yeoman work in the economic crisis, mitigating suffering and protecting jobs at a time when all too many policy makers seem determined to do the opposite. So it tells you something that conservatives have singled out this of all programs for special ire.

With the deficit dropping as a share of GDP, Republicans need to single out any examples of growing government programs they can find and hack away at them, regardless of whether there are good reasons for that growth.

* AND IS GUN CONTROL DEAD FOREVER? That’s the punditry’s conclusion, and yesterday Senator Joe Manchin said he doesn’t see a way forward anytime soon. Given Manchin’s leadership role on background checks, that does suggest the near term prospects are indeed bleak. But as Fred Hiatt spells out, the history of reform suggests a long view is advisable:

Sometimes reform takes years or decades of slogging, seemingly hopeless effort. At an unpredictable moment, public sentiment teeters and then tips. What everyone knew was impossible is seen as having been, all along, inevitable.

Historical footnote: Reagan press secretary Jim Brady was shot in 1981. The Brady bill didn’t become law until 1993.

What else?

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