GOP base to Congress: Shut it down (if you have to)

September 20, 2013

The Republican-controlled House will vote Friday on a short-term budget that would defund Obamacare -- a law that Americans oppose by a double-digit margin (52-42), according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a leading advocate of defunding Obamacare. (Mike Fuentes/Bloomberg)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a leading advocate of defunding Obamacare. (Mike Fuentes/Bloomberg)

So far, so good for the GOP.

Where things get dicey for Republicans is when a potential shutdown approaches at the end of the month, as all indications suggest.

According to the same poll, only about one-quarter of Americans (27 percent) want Congress to shut down the government rather than pass a budget that funds Obamacare -- a threat that is inherent in some GOP lawmakers' pledges not to support any such budget.

(Another 20 percent oppose Obamacare but don't want to risk a shutdown, while 5 percent oppose the law but aren't sure what they want to come from budget negotiations.)

So why would Republicans do something that only one-quarter of Americans are comfortable with? Once again, it's because their base demands it.

The same poll shows that 50 percent of Republicans would shut down the government before they would fund President Obama's signature health-care law, while just 21 percent oppose the law but would also oppose such an ultimatum. Among conservative Republicans, the willingness to face a shutdown is even stronger: Fifty-seven percent support it to prevent the implementation of Obamacare, compared to just 19 percent who don't.

Also -- and this should not be under-sold -- GOP supporters of that ultimatum are joined by 27 percent of all independents who oppose the law and would rather shut the government down than fund it. (We'll let you guess which party these independents support most often.)

In other words, it's pretty clear that at least half of the conservative base -- and certainly a vocal majority -- favors an ultimatum when it comes to defunding Obamacare.

Republicans, though, disagree with this entire "ultimatum" premise. Why would they get blamed for a government shutdown, they argue, if the House passes a perfectly good budget that, yes, defunds Obamacare but also avoids any kind of a shutdown? The Senate could simply pass their bill and avoid a shutdown, they argue.

The reason the blame is more likely to fall on the GOP's shoulders is (1) because they are the ones seeking a budget with a (very) significant change, and (2) polls show the American people more generally see Republicans as the party that is less willing to compromise.

The totality of it means Republicans are once again wedged between what their base wants and what the broader country wants (think immigration, gun control, etc.). While a majority of Americans oppose Obamacare, the vast majority of Americans also oppose shutting down the government in order to get rid of it.

If and when the congressional GOP faces that choice, it will be an unhappy one for party leaders.

Fixbits:

Obama is trying to set up a meeting with top congressional leaders next week to discuss the budget.

The president will once again enlist the help of Bill Clinton next week to help tout his health-care law.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said efforts to repeal and defund Obamacare are "not rational."

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has a commanding 41-point lead in the New York City mayor's race.

Republican businessman Matt Bevin once said he was "disheartened" by what he saw as a growing "ideological divide" in America. Bevin is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The DSCC outraised the NRSC in August, though the NRSC is now debt-free.

Must-reads:

"Tom DeLay’s conviction is overturned by Texas appeals court panel" -- Juliet Eilperin and Ed O'Keefe, Washington Post

"Republican divisions over government funding bill deepen" -- Paul Kane and Ed O'Keefe, Washington Post

"EPA moves to limit emissions of future coal- and gas-fired power plants" -- Lenny Bernstein and Juliet Eilperin,

 

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Ed O'Keefe | September 19, 2013