The upside of shutdown
What has the shutdown accomplished? Truth be told, we don’t know for sure. Was it worth doing? Absolutely. Consider the worst case scenario going forward; Republicans are forced into giving the Senate a clean CR. How do the Democrats benefit?
The funding fight doesn’t end. It just gets rolled over into the debt ceiling negotiation. The Democrats will enter that fight with three additional self–inflicted wounds. First, they extorted the CR by preserving for themselves and their staffs a negotiated subsidy that they denied to some political allies. Second, they insisted on the immediate enforcement of the individual mandate while deferring the employer mandate for a year. Third, they refused to consider the repeal of the medical device tax, the one revision of the ACA that has some measurable degree of bipartisan support. .
When Congress chose to waive the rules for themselves, they underscored a fundamental problem with Obamacare. The individual mandate was sold and justified as ‘shared sacrifice’. It’s pretty hypocritical for elected representatives to opt out of ‘shared sacrifice’.
The opportunity to defer the individual mandate was a political no-brainer. It was the bail-out position for Democrats. Why the “party of “fairness” would not allow a vote on this amendment is a mystery.
The medical device tax has little Democratic support in the Senate. It is economically counterproductive and an unpopular method of funding health care reform and it is destined for repeal. Why not take a page from Bill Clinton? Embrace the repeal and call it your own.
The consensus among the pundits was that conservatives overreached. Maybe not. Obamacare was never going to be repealed or wholly defunded (less than 20 percent of the funding is discretionary). But it is going to endure substantial revision. The winning strategy is death by a thousand cuts. Before this ends, the Democrats will have to vote to remove the federal employees exemption, postpone the individual mandate and support a repeal of the medical device tax. It will be necessary for Democrats to propose a new tax or raise fees and penalties to replace the lost revenue. And they will have to explain why they engineered a government shutdown and then reversed course on each of the above.
If Obamacare is the disaster it appears destined to be, no one will remember Republican infighting. Some very wise people like Charles Krauthammer and Debra Saunders made the point that the votes weren’t there. True. And at some point in the future Republicans might control the Senate and we might elect a president in 2016. But lets not kid ourselves. The Republicans are not going to repeal a program three years deep in beneficiaries; just like no political party is going to enact major entitlement reform.
The real question is this: If the Cruz /Lee strategy was the wrong one, which strategy did the Establishment Republicans consider more likely to succeed? 1. Sit it out. 2. Gain 21 Senate seats to override a presidential veto. 3. Sweep the presidency and the Congressional elections and repeal Obamacare in 2016. 4. Build a coalition with the Democrats to defund now. .
The Cruz strategy was a long shot, but it kept Obamacare in play. If the news about Obamacare continues to be bad, the Republican critics will have the defund movement to thank for a second crack at reform. If Obamacare turns out to be an unlikely success, none of the strategy will matter.