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Lame Duck II: The Sequel

From the diaries by Erick

A lot can happen between now and November, 2012. But let me make a prediction: The next month will either set Barack Obama on a “glide path” toward electoral victory -– or a glide path toward electoral defeat.

The Obama-generated narrative is that the next 30 days will be spent trying to come up with a “magic number” (between $10 billion and $61 billion) of Obama-approved spending cuts which are acceptable to both Republicans and the White House. Among other things, this negotiated plan would fund ObamaCare.

If this narrative unfolds the way Obama is planning, it will create a political dynamic comparable to the GOP’s botched handling of the lame duck session:

  • In less than three weeks in December, Barack Obama was transformed from a has-been to a 2012
    frontrunner.
  • Obama paid off restive Democrat constituencies: same-sex couples, foreign policy doves, environmentalists, unions, and New York’s two recently reelected liberal senators.
  • Obama was perceived as a leader who had embraced both bipartisanship and tax cuts.

Similarly, Obama is on the precipice of becoming a hero to every group facing cuts under the House’s long-term funding bill –- while appearing bipartisan and becoming a champion of spending cuts.

If this happens, Republicans can forget about any more spending cuts which are not paid for with tax increases. And they can clench their teeth and prepare for the electoral disaster which 2012 will bring.

But let me suggest this:

At the very least, conservative Republicans should insist that every short- and long-term funding bill defund ObamaCare. This would include the Rehberg amendment to defund current fiscal year ObamaCare expenditures, the two King amendments to defund pre-approved spending, and the Emerson amendment to defund IRS resources to enforce tax increases and mandates.

If 87 House freshmen were willing to insist on this and oppose any rule which precluded them -– and if a single senator were willing to force votes on these issues and object to “unanimous consent agreements” which precluded them -– the Republican leadership would be forced to do the right thing.

Given HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s confession of double-counting $500 billion of Medicare “cuts,” the money saved by this single cut would go a long way toward achieving Republican budgetary goals -– and it would do this with a cut which the American people firmly support.

(Parenthetically, you remember how the $500 billion in ObamaCare Medicare cuts were expected to effectively drive Medicare Advantage out of the market? And you remember Obama’s pronouncements that that would be a good thing? And you remember Sebelius’s end-run efforts to keep Medicare Advantage on life support until Obama could get past the 2012 elections (at which point the program would be allowed to go out of existence)? Well, now Sebelius is arguing that, by defunding ObamaCare, you would somehow hurt the Medicare Advantage program which ObamaCare attempts to drive out of existence. What that means is this: Sebelius is now terminally delusional.)

So the bottom line is this: Let Barack Obama shut down the government for the sole reason of preserving ObamaCare’s bureaucracy and mandates. Does anyone think that’s a battle which the GOP would not win?

by Michael E. Hammond, former General Counsel Senate Steering Committee 1978-89.

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