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Defund Obamacare!

September 19th, 2013 - 4:11 pm

Grassroots pressure from conservatives has induced the House Republican leadership to permit a vote on a continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare. That is excellent news.

For spearheading the move to defund the (Not Remotely) Affordable Care Act, intrepid Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have been scalded by the usual ruling class crowd of GOP establishment leaders and Obama administration officials. Yet public resistance to a law the public has never liked – and about which the public grows increasingly anxious as its deleterious consequences and exploding costs begin to materialize – has forced leadership’s hand even as it demonstrates, yet again, the divide between the Beltway and the country.

The objections to the defunding strategy are as unconvincing as they are feckless. Naysayers argue that President Obama will never sign a bill to fund government operations that slashes his signature achievement. Thus, the argument goes, defunding can only result in a government shutdown for which, thanks to Obama’s slavish media, Republicans will be blamed. Also trotted out, of course, is the bromide the GOP establishment chants to rationalize its supine posture whenever opportunities arise to oppose Obama’s hard Left agenda: “We only control one-half of one-third of the government, so we cannot dictate policy.”

Resistance is futile, in other words, so why resist at all? It’s an ironic argument since it seems Republican leadership only resists when doing so is futile, when the resistance is token. Thus the prior votes to repeal Obamacare, all forty of them, taken in the comfortable knowledge that they had no chance of succeeding – just going through the motions in faux fulfillment of a commitment to the base to work tirelessly to undo the law. But when something might not be futile – when it could actually work, and therefore entails hard work and risk – we generally find leadership in folderoo mode, babbling its one-half-of-one-third mantra.

Defunding could work for several reasons. First it puts the lie to the one-half-of-one-third blather. The United States Constitution does not set up government by percentage; it sets up government by enumerated power. The capacity of the respective branches to shape policy is not a function of how many of the branches a political party controls and by how much. It is a function of the subject matter of the policy in question. The president is only one-third of the government, but he is commander-in-chief, and if the issue is war strategy, he has policy primacy – it is immaterial whether the opposition party has a lock on Congress and the courts. Similarly, if the issue is adjudication of a constitutional case, it matters not whether we have a Republican president and 535 Republicans in Congress – the tune can be called by five left-wing Democrats in robes (or roughly one-half of one-third of the government).

When it comes to spending, Congress has primacy, and pride of place rests with the House (the one-half of one-third Republicans control) because the Constitution mandates that spending bills originate in the lower chamber – the one closest to the people. Equally important, the hard jobs in government are the ones where an officeholder has to do something. It is a lot easier when all that’s necessary is to refuse to act. Spending requires a positive act by Congress – not a thin dime may be spent unless Congress approves. That is, there can be no spending on Obamacare unless Congress votes to approve it. Thus, the one-half-of-one-third crowd is in the driver’s seat. All they need to do is say, “No.” It is President Obama who needs action here – congressional Republicans need only decline to act.

And by the way, if Republicans do act, if they vote to fund Obamacare, then they are for Obamacare. Don’t let them fool you with meaningless “repeal” votes. Repeal – i.e., changing the law – is a positive act; unlike refusing to spend money, it cannot be accomplished simply by saying no. Just as President Obama needs Republicans to get his spending, Republicans would need the president (or substantial cooperation from congressional Democrats) to get their repeal. This, we all know, they will never get – there will be no repeal until an election or two drastically changes the landscape. But spending is another story – and President Obama should be made to understand that it is just as hopeless to get Republican assent to spending on Obamacare as Republicans understand it is hopeless to get Obama’s assent on repeal.

In fact, defunding has a chance to work precisely because it is not an effort to repeal Obamacare. President Obama is a proud man. It is unreasonable to expect that he would ever sign a repeal, a complete surrender that would be tantamount to an admission of total failure. Defunding is not a complete victory for Republicans – Obamacare would still remain on the books as the law of the land.

Moreover, defunding is not all bad for Obama. Putting Obamacare to the side for a moment, there is no conservative who believes the federal government should be funded at current astronomical levels. To compare, in 2000, at the end of the Clinton presidency that Democrats speak of as an economic Golden Age, annual federal spending was around $1.76 trillion, roughly 18 percent of GDP. Today, spending has doubled ($3.5 trillion), hovering around a staggering 25 percent of GDP – and debt has tripled to $17 trillion (without accounting for tens of trillions more in unfunded liabilities). Conservatives want spending slashed at least back to Clinton levels. Yet, for purposes of the Obamacare defunding battle, conservatives are agreeing to fund the rest of the government at the current absurd heights just to make the political point that if the government shuts down, it is Obama’s doing.

Obama is talking a brave game right now about how he won’t even entertain a budget that erases Obamacare – he vows a veto and a shutdown. But his political position is untenable, even with the media carrying his water. He will be grinding things to a halt to force Obamacare on the public even though he himself has slashed Obamacare for the benefit of big business and members of Congress. By agreeing to fund the rest of government, Republicans allow Obama a face-saving out: He can tell his base he preserved record-spending on social welfare programs, and that while Obamacare has been delayed, it is still the law and he will be back pushing for funding it in next year’s budget when the executive branch is more prepared to implement it.

That’s why I’m betting he’ll cave.

Conservatives, of course, will not pretend that we don’t want Obamacare repealed or that we would not regard defunding as a sweet, albeit transitory, victory. Nevertheless, defunding is simply not repeal. Whether one hoped defunding would merely be a delay in implementation (as the Left would) or the first step toward eradication (as conservatives would), it would actually be a concession to reality, propriety, and equal protection under the law.

Reality because the law is not close to being ready for prime time. Obama has already conceded this point by selectively waiving – better to say: dubiously claiming the power to waive – the law’s implementation. He has massively defunded Obamacare by suspending the employer mandate. He has also gutted the verification requirements imposed on state health insurance “exchanges” (which are designed to verify the income of enrollees and whether they are already covered by employers) – a fiat that invites fraud certain to subject the program to billions of dollars in costs. And he has removed sundry Obamacare burdens that would otherwise be imposed on hundreds of his favored interest groups. Most disgracefully, this includes the ruling class itself: Congress critters and their staffers have been relieved of what would otherwise be a rescission of their $5,000 to $11,000 taxpayer health-insurance subsidy – once again, unlike the government, we mere peons will have to figure out a way to live within our means.

As all this elucidates, Obama himself is already defunding Obamacare. He has already demonstrated beyond cavil that the program is not ready to be applied as the enabling legislation commands. Conservatives need to be better at hammering this theme. Despite the White House campaign to paint them as extremists, Republicans are merely trying to do what Obama is already doing – except do it more fairly and more faithfully to both the terms of the statute and the debate over its passage.

That brings us to propriety. No president has authority to enact law, either by proclamation or by unilaterally repealing selective parts of a statute. Obama’s presumptuous waivers are an unconstitutional perversion of the legislative process. Legislation is about compromise: There would not be law unless lawmakers agreed to swallow provisions they do not like in order to enact the terms they favor.

Courts upset this balance when they invalidate a part of a statute – often a part whose acceptance was necessary to attract support for passage of the whole. But we tolerate this because courts have a justification: A statutory provision may be stricken only if it violates the Constitution, and only because the court has no alternative but to rule on the provision in order to decide a pending case. And courts often take pains not to usurp the legislative function: If an infirm provision is key to a statute, they will simply strike the whole statute rather than rewrite it selectively.

In stark contrast, Obama is not vindicating the Constitution. He is selectively mining the law’s provisions, as well as picking winners and losers in its enforcement, based on political considerations. In our constitutional system, it is the assigned duty of Congress to make those choices; the president’s job is to enforce the law as written. If the law cannot be enforced as written, it should not be enforced at all.

In the case of Obamacare, there is a powerful additional reason to honor this principle: The claim by Obamacare proponents that the healthcare system needed comprehensive reform.

By and large, opponents of Obamacare did not (and do not) deny that our health care system needs reform. But opponents argued that, because a system involving a sixth of our massive economy is so complex, reforms should be undertaken gradually, in the prudent realization that there would be unintended consequences to address. Radical shocks to the system, we argued, ought to be avoided. But no: Obamacare advocates insisted, as they ramrodded through their unpopular 2700-page bill, that we needed comprehensive reform. The system, they told us, is intricately interdependent. It could not be addressed in pieces heedless of the other pieces. Now, however, they risibly contend that the president – not the lawmaking department of government but the executive – can haphazardly tweak parts without affecting other parts.

Worse, they claim he can do so in gross violation of our constitutional commitment to equal protection under the law for every American. A waiver here, but not there. Big corporations relieved of their mandate (because the administration and the Democrats cannot afford the political fallout of higher unemployment heading into the 2014 midterms), but individual Americans told to pay up, pronto. Members of Congress who foisted Obamacare on us protected from its onerous terms, but ordinary citizens who never wanted Obamacare ordered to comply. That is a travesty, and millions of Americans are boiling over it.

Even in a Congress solidly controlled by leftwing Democrats, Obamacare only passed by the skin of its teeth – and only thanks to the rankest kind of back-room deals and fraudulent budgeting. It would never have passed, not in a million years, if the public had been told that corporations would be favored over citizens, and Obama cronies over those without political connections.

What conservative proponents of defunding are seeking is not a repeal. Conservatives seek merely to do what Obama is already doing: defund the law … except conservatives would defund within constitutional norms. This would be a refusal to fund a law accomplished by the branch of government responsible for spending and lawmaking, not by an imperial president who has usurped lawmaking power and would coerce spending in accordance with his political whims, not equal protection of law for all Americans.

That is an argument conservatives can win, shutdown or no shutdown.

More: House GOP to Cruz: How Dare You Allow Reality to Intrude on Our Defunding Fantasy!

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All Comments   (33)
All Comments   (33)
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Does anybody know if shutting down the government with no CR will ipso facto de-fund Obamacare? maybe the GOPers are onto something after all.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I may sound like a broken record but...

One strategic consideration about a government shut down I never see brought up.
What would happen if the House did send Obama the defunding bill - he vetoes it - shutdown ensues and then....The GOP takes it to the bloody end even if that means total fed shutdown for however long it takes to get the dems to cave?
I would bet Obama would take counter constitutional measures by Presidential order or, decree if you will.This would expose him as a totalitarian at heart. The GOP point could be that the house was w/in its constitutional powers - the President was not - he reverted to leftist/socialist/communistic totalitarianism when he did not get his way, disguised as, for the "common good".
This would also point out that the president could have bargained or legislatively led his party. Maybe offered spending cuts etc.. Instead he is trying to be dictator.
I think it would work like a charm. Krauthammer's, "you cant lead with 1/2 of 1/3 of one branch is nonsense on its face!!
The extra benefit about it would be the press coverage - but naturally the GOP would screw that up too - but they would be able to keep hammering home their point.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm of a mind just to let this abomination continue and when it collapses which it certainly will then the blame rests solely with the Democrats because they "passed" it by stretching the rules without a single, solitary Republican vote. When this thing augers in and takes the economy with it, THEY will be held accountable and will lose their power for years to come.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Posted this on Bill Straubs article today:

The passage of Obamacare and the strangulus bill in The One's first half of his first term resulted in the House being taken over mainly by Tea-Party conservatives in the 2010 national elections. Are we now going to forget this and succumb to the Rinos in their acquiescence to the dims? In MHO, I think not! Keep a stiff upper lip, damn the torpedoes, and hunker down as the federal government comes to a halt, just like it does every weekend. The longer this shutdown lasts, the lesser we need a raise in the debt ceiling.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
On the other hand......We could pass ACA Immediately and let the good ole folks find out it is not free, it will limit you and your doctor, it will bankrupt you and America, the government will be making decisions for you, etc...
They will remember in 14 and R's take the Senate & keep the House. May even help in 16.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If there is a shut down it's the Senate's fault. Really. The House passed funding for the government.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I love that they at least did it, but Obama is King and will veto ...
So why all the excitement?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't think there's any argument to win. Nobody's arguing. Republicans have proposed defunding, Democrats will reject it, and the stalemate will continue.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
These arguments make no sense.
There is NO NEED to " D E F U N D " ObamieKare.
There is NO NEED to worry about Barry Obama Vetoing the Spending Bills.

Merely pass a SERIES of Spending Bills:
One for Social Security.
One for the Military.
One for Agriculture. . . . ..

But, by Gosh - - There is NO spending bill for anyone or anything connected with ObamieKare.
No Bureaucrats. . . .. . . .No Commissars, No Czars, No IRS enforcers,

Now, President Barry Obama and the Senate will have to defend rejecting all those positive things ..... ... Barry won't pay the soldiers, the farmers, the old people. . . . . .

THAT would put the blow-back directly in the Dems face.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Andrew, while you present a compelling argument, I fear it's grounded on unrealistic expectations.

You are willing to "bet he'll cave". What if that's a bad bet? Let's say the government shuts down. It's a virtual certainty that Republicans will get blamed given the fawning, complicit mainstream media and the bully pulpit. Please remember most Americans are low-information voters.

We potentially lose our very best chance to retake the Senate (thereby giving us REAL leverage going forward) and perhaps even endanger the House majority.

Is it worth it?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Econ, you know we republicans will be blamed anyway, so just do the right thing.
and this is the right thing.

I will vote for those who vote to defund.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I will vote, speak for and financially support those who vote to defund. The GOP has been a bunch of craven pansies of late—give me a reason to support you. Today's vote on H.J. Res.59 was a start. Follow through.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I respectfully disagree.
Famous lost causes that led to something bigger:
Wake Island
Famous Victories that shouldn't have been
Israel, everytime
Battle of Britain
Famous victories where one side never entered the fray.
Famous victories where one side was so afraid of loosing it ran away and thus won
"You can afford to loose all the battles but the last one" WS Churchill.
I add, you must first enter the arena.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thermopylae and the Alamo were losses, but both accomplished the same thing: the shifted the momentum of the war and gave others time to prepare. Both the Spartans and the Texans knew beforehand they were going to fight a battle they would die in, but stood and fought all the same. They died so others could live free.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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