I’ve been concerned all week about the risks of a two-stage negotiation strategy, which other conservatives seem to have considered a good idea. That concern has been validated by the precarious position the GOP suddenly finds itself in, after Speaker of the House John Boehner offered President Barack Obama a short-term increase in the debt ceiling with the idea of continuing negotiations on Obamacare and the shutdown.
The White House promptly took that offer and used it as leverage to nudge Senate Republicans toward approving not only a short-term debt ceiling extension, but an end to the government shutdown, with no conditions attached. House Republicans are now as isolated as the recent NBC/WSJ poll must have made them feel. Now the choice to re-open the government will be theirs alone–and they are losing their nerve.
Nothing can be done about the Senate Republicans–they are what they are, and some will face primary challenges (the Beltway GOP is particularly worried about losing Lindsay Graham of South Carolina). The real challenge is for the House to muster the courage–the moral clarity–necessary to stand firm. They should also be reminded that they have no choice: the base will not turn out in 2014 for a party that caves on Obamacare.
Over at RedState, Erick Erickson writes: “The path forward is simple. Keep the debt ceiling and continuing resolution separate. Raise the former and refuse movement on the latter without a commitment to delay Obamacare.” I agree that an Obamacare delay is the minimum. But separating these two will allow the White House to continue splitting the House and Senate. They have to be handled at once–in parallel, not in sequence.
My suggestion to the GOP remains: attach a one-year delay in Obamacare’s individual mandate to the debt ceiling bill while also passing a continuing resolution to fund the government, at the same time. That way there is a quid pro quo that doesn’t look like one–much like Kennedy trading our missiles in Turkey for the Soviets’ missiles in Cuba. Obama gets to look tough. The GOP stands up for its voters. Win-win.