To defund or not to defund: that is the question. Hardline conservatives in the GOP are pushing for the party to stand tall on defunding Obamacare, which could shut down the government; the current funding bill is set to expire at the same time that ObamaCare starts to be implemented.
Establishment GOP members are wary of taking that stand, because they worry that a government shutdown could be used by the Democrats to win control of the House in 2014, just as the government shutdown of 1995 crippled the GIP in 1996.
Some of the establishment GOP reacted like this:
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to the Washington Examiner: “The strategy that has been laid out is a good way for Republicans to lose the House.”
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to Public Radio International: “I think it’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Some of these guys need to understand that if you shut down the federal government, you better have a specific reason to do it that’s achievable.”
Former National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) to Fox News: “(Defunding would be the) political equivalent of throwing a temper tantrum. It is the sort of thing that could create a backlash that could cost the Republicans the majority in the House … and could materially undercut the ability of the Republicans in the Senate to capture the majority in 2014.”
The establishment view was echoed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) McCain, Blunt, Burr and Coburn were in Congress in 1995 when the budget stalemate between former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and President Clinton shut down the government for 28 days.
But those in favor of defunding were a powerhouse group, including Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and Justin Amash (R-Mich.), among more than 60 supporters in the House and 12 in the Senate.
Rubio said on the Senate floor, “If this issue isn’t important enough for us to draw a line in the sand on, what issue is?”
The defunding crowd is supported by talk show host Mark Levin, who said Burr was a “jerk” and a “buffoon” for going weak-kneed, conservative site RedState, which encouraged its readers to pressure Burr, Blunt and other establishment GOP members to champion defunding, and the conservative advocacy group Heritage Action, which said it would target GOP members who won’t support defunding.
The two GOP leaders in Congress, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have not committed to a decision. McConnell is being challenged by a Tea Party candidate in the GOP primary, and thus is being pushed toward a more conservative position. The conservative Club for Growth wants McConnell to filibuster any government-funding bill that would fund ObamaCare, and threatened to support McConnell’s Tea Party opponent if he does not filibuster.
Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said the defunding opportunity was a “moment of leverage . . . It’s the stated position of essentially every Republican that they want to defund ObamaCare … so this is about them simply doing what they say they’re for. It’s important that McConnell understand it’s a matter of accountability.”
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell saw McConnell’s plight in a different shade, saying, “Conservatives are going to have to swallow a bitter pill. We’ve seen this play before — the government gets shut down and the GOP is seen as the villain. That’s not good with 2014 on the horizon. Just imagine you’re Mitch McConnell. You’re really going to have to walk a tightrope on this.”