Instead, they are regrouping for a longer battle over the health-care law. They also are trying to refocus the upcoming debt-ceiling showdown on fiscal issues, including entitlements and tax reform.
The strategy to defund the Affordable Care Act “needed a Plan B, and its authors, if they had one, didn’t share what it was,” said Heather R. Higgins, head of the Independent Women’s Forum and founder of a coalition of conservative groups seeking repeal of the health-care law.
The push to defund the legislation has cost Republicans politically. A Gallup poll released Wednesday found that only 28 percent of Americans view the Republican Party favorably — down 10 percentage points since September, and the lowest number for either party since Gallup began asking the question in 1992.
Democrats took a smaller hit in the survey, with 43 percent of respondents viewing Obama’s party favorably, down four percentage points from last month.
Some Republicans are aiming harsh recriminations toward those who had vigorously advocated linking the funding needed to keep the government operating to the drive to stop the health-care law. Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), who has become the face of that strategy, is the chief target of such criticism from within GOP ranks.
“I think it was very possible for us to delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year until Cruz came along and crashed and burned,” anti-tax activist Grover Norquist said.
But Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said: “The American people remain behind the defund effort. Americans deserve negotiations. They don’t want Obamacare. Public opinion is behind this, and that should be enough for Democrats to come to the table and provide relief for all Americans.”
House Republican leaders — who had been backed into the shutdown strategy by demands from Cruz and tea party forces — have been trying to recalibrate since the shutdown began Oct. 1.
The latest signs of the shift came in editorial columns Wednesday by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in The Washington Post and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in the Wall Street Journal.
Both implored Obama to negotiate the debt ceiling — but, tellingly, neither mentioned the health-care law as an item to be discussed. Instead, they focused on entitlements, and Ryan wrote that there are many potential areas of agreement between Obama and the Republicans.
The president has expressed a willingness to negotiate on long-term fiscal problems, but only if Republicans first vote to reopen the government and remove the threat of a federal default.