House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appear set to call for at least one formal vote on a continuing resolution that includes some form of defunding of Obamacare. Pardon us for not standing up and cheering. It’s far from clear whether this is simply another attempt by congressional Republican leaders to appear to be doing the right thing or the first step in a carefully considered series of concrete steps in a negotiating strategy designed to result, at a minimum, in delaying Obamacare’s individual mandate for at least one year, just as President Obama has delayed the corporate mandate for his Big Business buddies.
The Boehner/McConnell move comes close on the heels of the release by Rasmussen Reports of a new national survey of 1,000 likely voters – not merely of “adults” – conducted Sept. 14-15 that found 51 percent of those questioned don’t particularly want a government shutdown, but they “favor having a partial government shutdown until Democrats and Republicans agree on what spending for the health care law to cut. Forty percent (40%) would rather avoid a government shutdown by authorizing spending for the health care law at existing levels.”
Defunding advocates like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., appear to be moving public opinion their way despite the concerted effort of mainstream media liberals to portray the movement as extreme and doomed (it is neither). The New York Times, for example, has studiously avoided reporting the Rasmussen survey, preferring instead to insist that “although a majority disapproves of the Affordable Care Act, few Americans support Republican attempts to mess it up.” That may have been true a month ago, but the Rasmussen results make it at minimum a highly debatable proposition.
That is why Boehner and McConnell are playing with fire on the defunding issue. Fair or not, they must shoulder a major portion of the blame for the historically low public standing of Congress. That low standing results to a great degree from the well-grounded belief across the political and ideological spectrum that Washington politicians in both major parties talk the talk of common sense change but don’t walk it.
Additionally, most of the GOP base has believed for years that Washington Republican establishment leaders promise whatever they think will generate grassroots campaign volunteers and contributions. But then after the elections are past, these same GOP leaders never get around to, for example, abolishing tax credits that only benefit special interests, or wasteful, duplicative, unnecessary programs that keep federal bureaucrats living high on the hog.
Boehner and McConnell are mistaken if they think having one pro forma defunding vote – which is certain to fail in the Senate but might pass in the House – will allow them to say they gave defunding a chance but it failed, and then go on to negotiate a deal with Obama that preserves Obamacare intact. A one-vote charade will confirm for millions of voters among Rasmussen’s 51 percent that the GOP isn’t listening to them.