Well, at least Mitch McConnell has finally come out of the shadows to take a stand on a contentious issue. That is a start. Roll Call reports that Mitch McConnell is publicly espousing the view that he has always held privately:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told a crowd at a health care forum in Kentucky on Tuesday that while he does not like the president’s health care law, shutting down the government over funding it “will not stop” it from existing.
“I’m for stopping Obamacare, but shutting down the government will not stop Obamacare,” McConnell told the audience at Baptist Health Corbin, according to a WYMT-TV reporter at the event.
In one sentence, Mitch McConnell has articulated why the dinosaur party of the past has failed us and why we will never score points while people like him are in charge.
First, McConnell is repeating the bromide about a government shutdown failing to stop Obamacare. The goal here is not a government shutdown as an ends to itself; it is to use our only leverage point to confront Democrats on an issue that is an albatross around their necks in the 2014 elections, which will be fought on red states. All spending bills must originate in the House – the body that is controlled by Republicans. They need to pass a bill funding the government sans Obamacare. It is up to the Senate whether they want to force a shutdown over an unpopular law. As James Madison noted in Federalist #58:
The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold the purse — that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government. This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.
Moreover, this is exactly why we always lose. Instead of talking about getting rid of Obamacare and funding the government without Obamacare, GOP leaders are preemptively sabotaging the effort by talking about a government shutdown, so as to play into the messaging of Democrats. We need to talk about defunding Obamacare and have the House pass a standalone CR funding the government with a law prohibiting any funding for Obamacare. If Democrats want to shut down the government in order to throw people off their health insurance and chase doctors out of the field, that is their prerogative.
Yet, because of statements like the one from McConnell, Democrats always know with certitude that we will be the ones to blink, even on issues where the public aligns with us. It is this defeatist attitude that has saddled us with the $17 trillion in debt. In fact, the only success we’ve seen in recent years was when Republicans engaged in brinkmanship in the ’90s, and actually forced through a balanced budget and welfare reform. They also picked up two seats in the midterm elections. And no, Bob Dole did not lose the ’96 election because of the government shutdown.
There is also another point overlooked by allies of Boehner and McConnell. Instead of joining with conservatives to fight for something that is consequential and popular, they talk about “dollar for dollar cuts” or abstract entitlement reform. What they fail to explain is how they will accomplish their goals if they telegraph the message to Democrats that they will always blink first. On paper, their demands are just as offensive to Democrats as the conservative demands. So if they make it clear that we will always blink and engage in terrible messaging over the CR and debt ceiling, why would Democrats feel intimidated into acceding to any demands? That is a question they have never answered over the past three years of budget capitulations.
It is becoming clear that the only way we will ever stop Obamacare and the growth of government is by shutting down the establishment in primaries.