Why Trying to Defund Obamacare Is the Definition of Insanity

The effort by some Republicans on the Hill to shut down the government in order to prevent the implementation of Obamacare has officially jumped the shark and entered cloud cuckoo land. The Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of Congress, has issued a report, requested by Republican Senator Tom Coburn, which shows that even if the GOP is successful, Obamacare will roll forward anyway.

The CRS explanation for why a government shutdown wouldn't stop Obamacare from being implemented is straightforward:

"It appears that substantial ACA implementation might continue during a lapse in annual appropriations that resulted in a temporary government shutdown," the report said.

That's primarily due to two factors. First, the government can keep spending during a shutdown using "no-year discretionary funds" and reserves set aside for mandatory expenditures. The ACA specifically set aside billions of dollars for its own implementation that won't be touched by a shutdown.

Second, the report said ObamaCare could fall under one of the limited exceptions in which the government is allowed to allocate funds in lieu of a spending bill from Congress.

In short, the White House would have the money and the power to keep the ACA up and running even if the lights go dark in Washington.

But it appears that Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are not letting the facts stand in the way of an opportunity to get the juices flowing of the pro-shut-down conservatives in the base of the party. Cruz, especially, seems eager to burn some bridges by calling out Republican senators who don't agree with his quixotic quest, accusing them of having a "defeatist" approach to dealing with Obamacare. “I think they’re beaten down and they’re convinced that we can’t give a fight, and they’re terrified,” he said.

Or it could be that most Republicans on the Hill have faced up to the reality of the situation and, like any adult, are dealing with the world as it is, not as some less-mature members would wish it to be. The two-thirds of Republicans who think it a bad idea to shut down the government for absolutely no reason save a puckish desire to make the president look bad will suffer the political consequences -- not the loudmouths who call their brethren cowards and continue to insist that the facts can be ignored in order to achieve a result that simply isn't achievable.

Senator Lee's cynicism is especially repugnant:

Those of us who are Republicans and those of us to claim to be against ObamaCare, who happen to vote to fund it, will have a lot to pay, will have a lot to answer for with our constituents.

Lee said on Tuesday, "Defund it, or own it. If you fund it, you're for it."

Some of the leading critics of Cruz, Lee, and the rest of the pro-shut-down caucus -- like Tom Coburn and Bob Corker -- are among the most vociferous opponents of Obamacare. To question their bona fides and accuse them of political cowardice is ridiculous. This is especially true for Lee, who has latched on to the fake Obamacare defunding effort in order to do a little fundraising. He sent an email to supporters pleading for cash:

"As I told my good friend Sean Hannity last week, the upcoming budget vote is truly the last stop on the Obamacare express," Lee wrote. "We can’t afford to let this opportunity pass us by."

To do your part to save America, you are to "make an emergency contribution of $25, $35, $50, $100, $200 or whatever you can afford to my campaign right now, and help me continue spearheading the national effort to defund Obamacare before it’s too late."

It's already too late, but why allow reality to intrude on such a lovely fantasy? The problem is that the more obvious it becomes that you can't defund Obamacare, the more strident, mean-spirited, and insulting the shut-down caucus becomes toward their fellow Republicans who disagree.

One needs to ask why Cruz, Lee, and the rest of the pro-shut-down crowd are pushing the fantasy that Obamacare can be defunded. What kind of scam are they running? True, many of their supporters will dismiss the CRS report as some kind of plot to prevent the defunding of Obamacare, but what's their excuse? That they're as nutty as some of their supporters? One might suspect that they'd like to keep bashing Republicans who won't fight fights that can't be won because they look all the more "principled" to the slack-jawed crowd, with more reality-based Republicans seeming weak and squeamish by comparison. Or perhaps, like Alfred the butler describing a Burmese bandit in The Dark Knight, "some men just want to watch the world burn"