As conservatives escalate their efforts to shut down the government if Obamacare is not defunded, a familiar voice of reason is returning to the fray to send them a message: Dream on.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a deputy majority whip, has taken to the airwaves over the last 24 hours to pour cold water on GOP attempts to demand that the party withhold support for keeping the federal government open after Sept. 30 unless Obamacare is gutted.
He has dismissed the conservative effort as a “temper tantrum” and likened it to “blackmail.”
“Seems to me there’s appropriate ways to deal with the law, but shutting down the government to get your way over an unrelated piece of legislation is political equivalent of throwing a temper tantrum,” he said Wednesday on Fox News. “It’s just not helpful. And it is the sort of thing that creates a backlash and could cost the Republicans the majority in the House, which is after all the last line of defense against the president. And it could materially undercut the ability of the Republicans in the Senate to have the majority in 2014 which they have a decent chance to do.”
Cole made the same point to National Review in an article published Thursday.
“I don’t think you ought to try to blackmail the administration on a fight that they won politically in the House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court by threatening to shut down the government,” he said.
The five-term congressman was responding to a House effort by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), backed by influential conservative groups, to push for defunding Obamacare in the annual spending bill that must pass by Sept. 30 in order to avoid a government shutdown.
Cole, an ally of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), similarly pushed conservatives late in 2012 to back off their hardline stance against permitting high-income taxes to rise in an agreement to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. They eventually did.
“We will continue to do everything we can to defund [Obamacare], to repeal it,” Boehner told reporters Thursday. But he kept his powder dry on whether he’ll push for it in the continuing resolution: “No decisions have been made about how we’re going to deal with the CR.”