Conservatives Concede Defeat In Obamacare Shutdown Fight

AP
Views

Multiple conservatives leading the charge to shut down the government if Obamacare isn’t defunded have begun to admit it’s a lost cause as senior Republicans put the kibosh on the plan.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) lamented Monday afternoon that Republicans are too “scared” to follow through with the plan to withhold support for funding the government after the Sept. 30 deadline unless Obamacare is defunded.

“The problem right now is we don’t have Republicans willing to stand up and do this,” he said on The Andrea Tantaros Show, a conservative talk radio program. “We need 41 Republicans in the Senate or 218 Republicans in the House, to stand together, to join me, to join Mike Lee, to join Marco Rubio, all of whom have said, we will not vote for a single continuing resolution that funds even a penny of Obamacare.”

Late last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) laughed out loud when Sean Hannity of Fox News asked if Republicans have the “courage” to stand tough against legislation that funds Obamacare.

“Frankly, probably not,” the senator said.As far as they’re concerned, these two lawmakers are pressing on with their demands, along with 10 other senators who signed a letter by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) pledging not to fund the government unless it excludes appropriations to implement the Affordable Care Act. But they’re far short of a critical mass and facing headwinds not just from Democrats but from GOP leaders who recognize the perils of shutting down the government over Obamacare.

Senior Republicans are deriding the plan as “dumb,” “silly” and a “temper tantrum,” warning that it will fail and damage the party’s prospects in the upcoming 2014 elections.

“[I]t’s dishonest,” conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) told the Washington Examiner, dismissing the plan as “a denial of reality mixed with a whole bunch of hype.”

Even so, the base isn’t officially giving up. A letter signed by more than 50 influential conservatives — including heavyweights like Heritage Action, Club For Growth and FreedomWorks and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform — calls on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) “to include language fully defunding Obamacare when they consider their upcoming legislation to fund the government.”

The divisions reflect the GOP’s catch-22 over Obamacare. After riling up their base and repeatedly promising to spare no effort to thwart the health care law, they face the wrath of conservatives for refusing to put themselves on the line in service of the cause, despite daunting political odds. Some conservative activists say they feel played by the GOP for regularly invoking Obamacare to raise money but failing to fight it when it counts.

“I think I want to challenge Obamacare on all fronts, but that’s a bridge too far for me,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told TPM in the Capitol on Tuesday. “As much as I want to replace Obamacare I’m not going to deny Social Security payments, funding of the military and the FBI at a time of great national security concerns. I think that’s a bridge too far.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) didn’t take a definitive stance, telling TPM, “I hope we wouldn’t shut down the government, but I’d like to shut out Obamacare.”

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) told TPM that “Obamacare is not working” and “needs to be fixed.” But when pressed on whether it’s worth risking a government shutdown over, he demurred: “I’m not going to get that far.”

At his RedState.com blog, conservative activist and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson has a series of posts expressing his anger and contempt toward Republicans for caving and, in his view, bamboozling conservatives about their commitment to stopping Obamacare.

“They will send you fundraising appeals telling you to stand with the GOP against Obamacare, please send them money,” he wrote on Sunday night. “But when confronted with the challenge of opposing continuing funding of the government if that funding goes to Obamacare, their testicular fortitude runs down their leg and out the door. They rally their usual op-ed voices to call conservative dumb. They preemptively surrender. They behave worse than the French.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK