Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., had some pretty harsh words for those Republican colleagues of his who are pushing legislation to defund Obamacare last week, calling such efforts “dishonest” and “hype.” But scrape away the rhetoric, and some long-simmering frustration over tactics, and both sides basically want the same thing.
“In the short-term, if you’re going to threaten a shutdown you have to go in committed to winning,” Coburn spokesman John Hart told the Washington Examiner, “You want to seize the high ground early and pick the hill or hills to die on.”
Coburn simply does not believe that a full defunding of Obamacare is the right hill to die on. Obama would never sign it.
But that does not mean Coburn is ready to completely cave to Obama on everything. Despite an identical Obama threat to veto any continuing resolution that does not reverse sequestration, Coburn is willing to risk a shutdown on that issue. Coburn also sees narrower opportunities to make smaller Obamacare issues part of the continuing resolution fight as well.
“Those [fights] could include defending the current sequester levels, calling for income verification with respect to ACA subsidies, demanding an ACA moratorium for individuals and not just big business, a repeal of the medical device tax that will delay life-saving cures and treatments, etc.,” Hart said. “In other words, we should argue from a position of strength that exposes the failed policies and counterfeit compassion of the left.”
Coburn’s earlier harsh words for his conservative colleagues stem from a growing frustration many Republicans on Capitol Hill have with the perceived influence of groups like Heritage Action, which is including co-sponsorship of Sen. Ted Cruz’s, R-Texas, Defund Obamacare Act on their legislative scorecard.
“I’m getting phone calls from Oklahoma saying, ‘Support Mike Lee,’” Coburn told the Washington Examiner‘s Byron York last week, “and I’m ramming right back: Support him in destroying the Republican party?”
Heritage Action, however, believes they are only expanding the range of possible positive outcomes for the inevitable government shutdown fight. “If Republicans spend the next two months making the case to the American people that we need to defund Obamacare, we could achieve a lot,” Heritage Action communication director Dan Holler tells the Washington Examiner. “On the other hand, if they listen to Karl Rove and Tom Cole and shy away from the fight on Obamacare, it is all but certain these massive new entitlements will come online starting January 1.”
The left did not pass Obamacare by promising activists sub-universal health insurance paid for by government subsidies funneled through enlarged private insurance companies. But, by fighting for an ideal of single-payer health care, they did move the ball significantly in a statist direction.
If Obamacare is going to be unwound, some conservatives will have to make similarly big promises.