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Topics: Obamacare

To defund Obamacare, good principle equals good politics

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It is very disappointing to see members of the House of Representatives, including its leadership, refusing to even consider passing an amendment to the upcoming continuing resolution that would defund Obamacare. That CR has to be passed by Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown.

As Bill Wilson correctly pointed out Thursday in a Washington Examiner commentary, "the issue is one of leverage." The best leverage the House majority has is the CR. They can pass a CR that completely funds the government except for Obamacare.

That would put Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama in the position of having to defend shutting down the government over the implementation of an unworkable, socialized medicine program that the American people don't want and that the administration itself is having problems implementing.

There is no question that a defunding amendment would stop the implementation of Obamacare, including those portions of the law that are entitlements. The Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding of abortions and is part of yearly discretionary appropriations bills, has prevented federal Medicaid funds from being used for abortion coverage for almost four decades.

Federal civil servants are also well aware of the penalties of the Anti-Deficiency Act, which prohibits spending federal funds or incurring any obligations that have not been authorized or appropriated by Congress. Federal employees can lose their jobs or go to prison for violating that law.

From a public policy standpoint, this is the right thing to do to stop this ruinous law. Standing on constitutional principles, it's a common-sense way to remedy bad law.

Unfortunately, too many legislators seem to forget that good principles equal good politics. The American people respect those who stand up and fight for their principles. They don't like politicians who sit and do nothing for fear of negative political fallout.

Leaders in the House majority have misread their own party's political history. In a Thursday conference call with rank-and-file Republicans, Speaker John Boehner warned that a defunding amendment might lead to a government shutdown and then reportedly reminded the Republicans of the supposed political backlash over the government shut downs in 1995-96.

But Boehner's view of what happened is factually wrong, even though it is the accepted version of events among many lawmakers and pundits in Washington today.

In the presidential election of 1996, which followed the shutdowns, the Republicans only lost eight seats in the House -- in a year in which a Democratic president was reelected to a second term.

It was the first time Republicans had maintained their majority control of the House in almost 70 years. They actually gained two seats in the Senate.

And what did they achieve? By holding to their principled demands, they achieved the first balanced budget in generations and the first major reforms of welfare ever.

Boehner is apparently afraid of being blamed for a government shutdown at a time when huge numbers of the American people think the federal government is too large, too powerful, and spends too much money.

Passing a CR that funds the government except for Obamacare will make it very hard for the media and the president to blame Republicans if the government shuts down if Obama vetoes the CR or Reid and his party refuse to pass it in the Senate. This is a public relations fight the Republicans can win.

It has been suggested that opponents of Obamacare might do better to wait until the president seeks to raise the national debt limit, and write a delay in implementation of Obamacare into that legislation.

Why wait? There is no valid reason to put off this fight until the debt limit becomes an issue again in Congress.

The party that controls the House should use its fundamental constitutional "power of the purse" to stop funding Obamacare. It is the right thing to do, the principled thing to do, and the politically smart thing to do.

Hans von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former member of the Federal Election Commission.

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