Well, it is official.
Eric Cantor and John Boehner — particularly Eric Cantor — have decided they don't need or want conservatives and, more troubling, do not have any intention of trying to win at the polls by forcing Democrat hands on Obamacare.
Our leadership is behaving badly.
Last week and on Monday I mentioned Rep. Steve King's effort to repeal Obamacare and start over. He's filed a discharge petition. If he gets 218 signatures, Nancy Pelosi must hold a vote.
At the time, I was hearing that Eric Cantor was desperate to undermine Steve King's efforts and, sure enough, he's trying. Worse, he has John Boehner helping him.
Let me explain.
King's legislative effort would repeal Obamacare and start over. In effect, all those Democrats who have been saying they too want to start over get a "put up or shut up" moment by signing the King discharge petition.
Today, Eric Cantor and John Boehner are announcing that they'll sign King's discharge petition, but they're also going to go with one by Congressman Wally Herger that would repeal Obamacare and replace it with a Republican alternative.
Notice that Cantor and Boehner were absolutely silent on Rep. King's efforts until they had Wally Herger's discharge petition ready to go. Why? Because they want to bully Republican House members into signing the Herger petition and undercut the repeal effort with a "replace and replace with lame legislation" effort. In effect, this undercuts a unified repeal effort and muddies the waters.
This is a direct confrontation by the House GOP leadership with conservatives and with Heritage Action for America, the Heritage Foundation's spin off 501(c)(4) group.
It is also stupid for a number of reasons:
- If the GOP unites behind the Heritage effort on the King "Repeal Obamacare" bill, we actually have a chance of winning. 60% of Americans want this to happen, and numerous Democrats are gettable in this fight. The Herger "Repeal and Replace" bill has zero chance of passing, it will drive a number of GOP members away who don't agree with this particular replacement bill and give Democrats an easy excuse to not sign onto the repeal movement.
- The Republican alternative is a milquetoast alternative.
- The Republicans spent months calling on the Democrats to work with the GOP to draft Obamacare. The Cantor-Boehner strategy means the GOP is now pushing a proposal to the floor of the House without input from the left or even from conservatives.
Tea Party activists and others should pay attention here: Eric Cantor and John Boehner are implementing a strategy that makes it look like they are on your side, but are in fact stabbing you in the back.
Cantor and Boehner are spinning this as a good thing. But it is not. It muddies the water and gives Democrats an escape from being forced to take action.
Any Republican who signs on to the Herger discharge petition should be driven from office for betraying the "repeal" cause. This does nothing but provide cover to people who don't really want to repeal Obamacare, just nibble at the edges.
And should the GOP take back Congress in November, we should remember this betrayal and the lies that go with it.