The far right has to constantly up the ante, pushing its base and money suppliers to new heights of outrage and demanding retribution against weak-kneed Republicans who prefer to be, well, conservative — prudent, cautious and skeptical of radical change.
In its latest lark in search of supporters for a government shutdown, the Heritage Foundation and its president, Jim DeMint, demand removal from office of Republicans who figure the president and other Democrats will never, ever give up funding Obamacare and will slaughter the Republicans as reckless and untrustworthy. But it was not always thus.
DeMint voted to fund Obamacare, which, in his parlance, means he “owns it.” The vote was on March 2, 2011, when DeMint and 90 colleagues in the Senate voted on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded while work continued on a longer-term continuing resolution on the budget. (On March 17, DeMint reversed course and voted against a longer continuing resolution, which 87 of his colleagues supported.)
But until DeMint’s reign, Heritage didn’t think much of silly stunts like trying to shut down the government to defund Obamacare. In 2011, the Heritage blog explained what it called a “dirty little secret”:
Several members of Congress, like Rep. Denny Rehberg (R, MT) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R.-Wash.) are offering amendments that would prevent any new spending from being used to implement Obamacare. Good for them. Those are important additions to the big spending bill pending in Congress.
But here’s the dirty little secret: Much of Obamacare is being implemented with money that was already appropriated last year. These billions are already available for bureaucrats to put Obamacare into force.
Denying additional funding for Obamacare does not de-fund the huge amounts it already is using for implementation. That requires additional action.
In other words, knock yourself out but don’t tell us you’re getting the job done. (“It’s good that the House may cut off any new money to implement Obamacare. But unless Congress deals with the pot of money already provided, we won’t meet the goal of defunding Obamacare.”)
This is perhaps why many Republicans are disgusted with Heritage’s grandstanding. When I spoke to as a senior GOP aide about the new position, he agreed. “I don’t remember the Heritage Foundation attacking Jim DeMint for funding Obamacare in 2011,” he said. “Funny how that works.”
You can be cynical and view the current gambit as another money-making ruse to stoke the base and generate dollars. Or you can think of Heritage and DeMint as symptomatic of a slice of the conservative movement that doesn’t consider politics to be about governing, but rather about rhetorical posturing and screeching attacks on those who actually want to govern. DeMint will lose on this one, but he never really loses. Defeat will beget a fundraising letter demanding supporters send him more money to exact retribution for the “betrayal” by GOP leaders. Defeating Democrats and providing a wealth of innovative conservative policy? Well, that is so 2011.