Fighting Obamacare Is Like Fighting the 9/11 Hijackers, and Other Republican Arguments to Delay Obamacare

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 28 2013 5:35 PM

Fighting Obamacare Is Like Fighting the 9/11 Hijackers, and Other Republican Arguments to Delay Obamacare

"Let's roll" isn't necessarily the best slogan for domestic politics.

Photo by Nathan G. Bevier/USAF/Getty Images

Now that the continuing resolution to fund the government has been amended to fund Obamacare again, House Republicans have produced a counteroffer. Instead of defunding Obamacare, the new CR—to be amended this evening in the Rules Committee—will delay the law's implementation by a year and kill the medical devices tax. The White House has already come out against this. "The Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax," said Sen. Harry Reid. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who has supported the idea of delaying the mandate, has come out against this, too, which means Republicans can't count on Democrats scrambling and infighting when the bill comes up.

The Republican strategy to destroy Obamacare, such as it is, depends on the sort of mass-conscienceness-raising not seen since Abbie Hoffman tried to levitate the Pentagon. Voters are generally inclined to blame Republicans in Congress for a government shutdown, or a debt default. The president takes some hits in polling for the failure to come to a deal, but so far, Republicans have been unable to transfer the unpopularity of "Obamacare" to the popularity of a "use the CR or debt limit to defund Obamacare" strategy.

So ... how do they pull that off? It would be ideal if the party could stay on message and insist that it would not be its fault if the government shut down. It would be Barack Obama's fault, for bitterly clinging to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, with delays and waivers determined by him with no congressional input.

Getting that across means not saying anything that makes Republicans sound like the aggressors. Alas, making sure that hundreds of House and Senate Republicans stick to that plan is as easy as getting them to stick to a plan on Obamacare. Among the ways they blow this:

1.) Benjy Sarlin and Suzy Khimm report on how Boehner sold his conference on yet another game of pingpong (that the Senate isn't even playing):

Republicans enthusiastically embraced the new plan in a special closed-door meeting on Saturday, breaking out into huge applause as members cheered “Let’s vote!” “The whole room: ‘Let’s vote!’” Congressman John Culberson of Texas recalled. “I said, like 9/11, ‘let’s roll!’”

"Let's roll," we remember, was what Todd Beamer said before he and other United 93 passengers attacked the terrorists who'd hijacked their plane on Sept. 11, 2001. I don't see any reason to clutch pearls at what Culberson said, but the metaphor does portray the House Republicans as springing into action.

2.) Paul Ryan talks to Jonathan Strong about the goal of sending this back to the Senate.

What we wanted to do is make really clear who stands for what. And doing what we’re doing today makes the Senate face up to that. We’ll see what happens. I’ve always believed you don’t try to predict with certainty where these things go. Everybody who says such things really doesn’t know. They’re just spinning. I want to see where Mary Landrieu votes on this or Mark Pryor or Begich or Kay Hagan and other people.

You keep hearing this from Republicans, you heard it from Eric Cantor on camera when the first CR was passed, and it's bizarre—why admit so early in the game that you're doing this to beat Democratic senators?*

3.) NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring responded to some of my Twitter trolling.

You could point out that Democrats never actually threatened to attach tax hikes to a debt limit increase (in 2007, when they had a small Senate majority, it's not obvious that they had the votes, anyway), but the basic point is that, yes, Republicans are demanding that the law be changed.

House Republicans don't want to read that they're "pushing to the brink of a shutdown." They don't want to wake up on Oct. 2 to headlines about "Republicans shutting down the government over Obamacare." This dream is pretty impossible to square with the strategy of shutting down the government over Obamacare.

*It's also completely unclear how these Democrats might shore up their re-elections by voting against Obamacare after they voted for it. The lessons of John Kerry ("I voted for the funding before I voted against it") and of the poor Blue Dogs who tried to differentiate themselves from Nancy Pelosi have been learned and learned and learned.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics


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