The action in the House sets up a confrontation with the White House and congressional Democrats that could lead to a partial shutdown of the government. Republicans have no hope of winning the battle to defund Obamacare as long as this president is in office. The Senate will reject the House bill and, in any case, the president would veto anything like it that reaches his desk.
A related part of the GOP strategy will unfold soon, as House Republicans try to tie a provision to delay implementation of the health-care law to the measure raising the debt ceiling before the government runs out of borrowing authority. The president, still burned by the wreckage of debt-ceiling negotiations two years ago, has said he will not negotiate over the ceiling this fall. He reiterated that in a phone call with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday.
The strategy to tie defunding of Obamacare to the government-funding bill has divided Republicans, producing an extraordinary spectacle of intraparty second-guessing and pointed criticism. The debate highlights a fundamental schism within the Republican Party. Can Republicans cater to their conservative base and still find ways to expand their appeal across the electorate in order to win back the White House in the future? Are the two mutually compatible or mutually exclusive?
There are reasons Republicans feel emboldened to go after Obama’s health-care law. Three years after he signed the measure, the president has clearly failed in the public relations effort to win support for the Affordable Care Act.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that a majority of Americans say that they oppose the law—52 percent, compared with 42 percent who favor it. Among Republicans, 78 percent oppose it, and 68 percent of Republicans oppose it strongly. Overall, Democrats like the act, although 31 percent of them do not. Among independents, 54 percent are opposed.
Those findings, which are consistent with polls from other organizations, have encouraged Republicans to carry on the fight to defund or delay the law with ever more determination, even if they are likely to lose this battle. They hope to energize voters in 2014 as they did in 2010.
But the poll also offers evidence of the risks Republicans are taking as they set out on a path that could lead to partial shutdown of the government to force the issue of Obamacare funding. In the Post-ABC poll, only a quarter of Americans favor shutting down parts of the federal government to achieve that goal. The poll also highlights GOP divisions on this strategy: Only half of all Republicans are willing to shut down the government to block the law.