On Oct. 1, when a new fiscal year begins, Congress will have to choose whether to fund Obamacare with its giant funding bill — the continuing resolution — or not.
It should follow the example of Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz and refuse to fund Obamacare. If it does this, and if the House Republicans stand firm, it can shut down this dreadful legislation — on the very day that the law’s health care exchanges take effect and the American people learn what a horrific deal Obamacare is.
In the face of this choice, a surprising number of weak-kneed, misinformed conservatives have attacked Mr. Lee and Mr. Cruz.
Their first argument is that Obamacare is not funded by congressional appropriations, but by a trust fund that is beyond Congress’ reach.
This is not wholly untrue, but it is misleading. In order to enforce the mandate, the Internal Revenue Service will operate on appropriations. The “subsidies” will be funded by the trust fund, but, if the IRS loses its power to force Americans to buy high-premium insurance they don’t want, the trust fund will dry up as well.
Second, they argue that Republicans have lost showdowns in which a government shutdown was a possibility. It is true that they have lost every shutdown in which they have fled in terror and surrendered. The two conspicuous instances in which the GOP has stood its ground, though, have been victories for them.
The first occurred in 1995-96, when Newt Gingrich as House speaker threatened to shut down the government. The polls did not show the public turning on Mr. Gingrich until he “blinked” and handed President Clinton the victory.
Still, Republicans held onto the House in 1996, picked up seats in the Senate, and would have won the presidency had they not nominated a weak candidate in Bob Dole. Out of the showdown came welfare reform — perhaps conservatives’ biggest victory of the decade — and a balanced budget.
Similarly, in July 2011, when House Republicans held up the debt limit — and stood firm — President Obama’s approval ratings dropped 10 points. The budget cuts forced by sequestration, which Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn lauds as the only real achievement of the last Congress, resulted from this.
Third, pundits like Charles Krauthammer argue that Mr. Obama will never sign a “continuing resolution” that defunds his “signature” initiative, and, therefore, Republicans will lose.
In the middle of the first battle over Obamacare in 2009, Mr. Krauthammer regularly bombarded listeners with his “conservatives are going to lose” message, which became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Similarly, Mr. Krauthammer consistently told us that we were “going to lose” on universal gun registration. He was wrong about that.
It is time we stop allowing cowards to dictate policy for the Republican Party.
Mr. Obama, say the pundits, would love to blame the GOP for shutting down the government. Remember, though, that it is Mr. Obama (and Harry Reid) who will be refusing to fund the government — for the sole reason that they want to force the American people to buy politically correct but wildly unpopular health insurance. Why would we not want to fight this battle — at the very moment that the American people are blowing their lids at the newly disclosed price tag of the insurance?
A majority and still-growing percentage of the American people oppose Obamacare. Certainly, you can fudge poll results. One recent poll asked whether we should “repeal health care reform,” and it got a negative response. However, if the question is rephrased to ask specifically whether we should “repeal Obamacare” or “repeal the mandate that Americans buy health insurance,” the results are radically different. According to other polling, only 12 percent of Americans support the mandate.
The final argument is that Republicans will never succeed with defunding Obamacare while Mr. Obama is in the White House. They should take a lesson from Mr. Obama himself, who spent 2011 and 2012 building support for his re-election by telling voters he would satisfy their needs — whatever it took.
If the GOP thinks it can draw support in 2014 by running on the platform “we are impotent,” it will be sorely mistaken.
Michael E. Hammond is a former general counsel for the Senate Steering Committee.