Regardless of what happens in the end, win or lose, as Breitbart News editor-in-chief Joel Pollak laid out on Thursday, the fight to defund ObamaCare should happen because it is the right thing to do policy-wise. But there is also, despite the scuttlebutt to the contrary from many in the GOP establishment, a political argument in favor of doing it.
Let us call it the Denny Rehberg argument. Now-former Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) was running for U.S. Senate last year while he served in the House of Representatives as the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, Health and Human Services, Labor and Related Agencies. Rehberg was in a prime position of power to take a stand against ObamaCare and defund its implementation. But establishment Republicans, especially House GOP leadership, strongly discouraged such a fight. In fact, they still discourage it. Rehberg obliged and chose not to fight.
Rehberg won many statewide races in Montana over the course of his political career. Every time he ran statewide, either for his House seat (he served in the House from 2001 to 2013) or as the state’s Lieutenant Governor (he was appointed to the slot in 1991 and elected to one full term in 1992 that ended in 1997) he won.
In 2012, Rehberg decided to challenge Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) for his U.S. Senate seat. While his decision to not fight ObamaCare by defunding it was likely not the only reason Rehberg lost his bid against Tester, his unwillingness to fight the law while rhetorically blasting it, like most Republicans in Congress do, surely played a role in voters’ decision to send Tester back to Washington.
Polling data obtained exclusively by Breitbart News last weekend shows that an overwhelming majority of GOP and conservative voters, 66 percent and 69 percent respectively, would vote to remove their members of Congress from office if they voted against ObamaCare but in favor of its funding. Independent voters said they would do the same at a margin of 53 percent to 33 percent, and moderates at a margin of 46 percent to 39 percent. A slim plurality of Democrat voters, 43 percent to 41 percent, would not vote to replace their member of Congress for that reason.
Earlier this week, my old Daily Caller colleague Jamie Weinstein argued in a morning email to subscribers that “[i]t is hard to imagine a scenario where the GOP can actually defund ObamaCare with the Democrats in control of the Senate and a president in the White House who will never sign a bill that kills his signature domestic achievement. [Sen. Tom] Coburn [(R-OK)] is right. This political stunt can only hurt the GOP going into 2014.”
Weinstein’s commentary was in response to a news story from the Caller about how FreedomWorks was fighting to defund Obamacare. In response to Weinstein’s argument, FreedomWorks spokeswoman Jackie Bodnar emailed me saying that a large reason why Mitt Romney lost the election was because he took ObamaCare off the table. (It is hard to criticize Obamacare fully when one of your gubernatorial legislative achievements was a healthcare law that, like it or not, served as at least some basis for ObamaCare).
“I’m having a hard time seeing the political liability in Republicans using the bargaining position they finally have (which has historically proven to be effective) and using it to postpone funding for a program that even the President himself said isn’t ready,” Bodnar said. “When Republicans ran on repealing ObamaCare in 2010 following the loud townhall protests of the year before, the wins were historic. When Republicans took the health care issue off the table in 2012 by running Mitt Romney, they lost. Establishment Senators like Richard Burr (NC) and John Cornyn (TX) still can’t seem to understand that when Republicans act boldly on fiscal issues, they win with the grassroots. There is a line in the sand being drawn right now, and it’s going to be the defining decision of the cycle.”
Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) are fighting this battle for largely the same reason. Lee was elected in 2010 with overwhelming grassroots support in an effort that removed longtime incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett. The movement wanted Lee to come to Washington to fight, rather than be a stagnant do-nothing force and that is exactly what he is doing. Similarly, Cruz won in 2012 against all odds, beating GOP establishment figure TX Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate. People wanted action, and like Lee, that is what Cruz gave them.
The counter-argument from GOP establishment figures like Karl Rove is that Obamacare will kill itself off. Could that happen? Sure, anything is possible. But in the meantime, voters want their lawmakers to fight for them and against Obama.