The summer recess will be coming to a conclusion soon, and the political posturing for what should be the main priority in Congress has already begun. It is quite clear that the funding of Obamacare is where the upcoming battle will lie as the House already has failed 40 times to repeal the massive health care law and now seem ready to try a new strategy.
A recent Associated Press story shows the division with that new strategy with 80 House Republicans wanting a government shutdown to prevent the funding Obamacare, while 153 refrained from signing the letter sent to Speaker of the House John Boehner. The government shutdown strategy has moved the debate from Republicans verses Democrats to Republicans versus Republicans. As a result, this strategy is not only setup for failure but more than likely will backfire in more ways than one.
The first and possibly most detrimental way this strategy will backfire are the implications on the 2014 midterm elections. GOP Pollster Whit Ayres told Politico that “Shutting down the government is the one way that Republicans can turn Obamacare from a political advantage to a political disadvantage in 2014.” The government shutdown of the 1990s turned into a huge political gain for President Bill Clinton, and despite the mixed feelings of the general public on the health care law another government shutdown would almost certainly be blamed on Republicans heading into the 2014 election season. If that happens, the Affordable Care Act would be responsible for major swings in both midterm elections of under President Obama.
Second, Obamacare is still more likely to be funded than not. While 80 mostly Tea Party house members signed the letter to Speaker Boehner, 153 did not which still gives the speaker enough backing within his party to avoid the shutdown. The speaker’s need for Democrat votes gives them some leverage in the debate leading to the like scenario of funding for Obamacare and no government shutdown.
Despite the potential backfires, Tea Party Republicans led by Heritage Action are on an August defunding tour hoping to pressure other Republicans into supporting their efforts. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing a Tea Party challenger and catching heat for not supporting the defund measure while FreedomWorks is targeting Sen. Tom Coburn for condemning the strategy. The divide even extends to potential 2016 presidential candidates as Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio all support the measure and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker being skeptical and others staying silent.
Pitting Republican versus Republican is a bad strategy. Not only does it divide an already weak party, but it gives Democrats particularly in the House more leverage. This additional leverage when combined with a weakened party sets the strategy up not only for failure but backfires leading to gains in the other direction.