Defund? Or Delay? That is the Obamacare question
Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal reports on a growing movement of anti-Obamacare activists to get the GOP to force a one year delay in Obamacare implementation rather than attempting to shut down the goverrnment - which won't work to defund the law anyway and could have political consequences.
A swelling coalition of conservative activists-card-carrying members of the "repeal ObamaCare" campaign-are lighting up the movement with a different approach. The plan aims to leverage public support, play on Democrat weaknesses, and, most notably, sidestep a shutdown fight that would damage the GOP even as it failed to kill the law. Meet the "Delay coalition."
The rallying cry of the Defunders is that this moment is the GOP's "last chance" to put the brakes on ObamaCare. Yet by that very logic, the GOP strategy had better offer a chance at success. Shutdown doesn't. Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats will never agree to tank their signature achievement. The White House is salivating over the chance to pin a shutdown on Republicans, since honest polls show the public is opposed to shutting down government over ObamaCare. Even the Defund ringleaders admit-at least in private-that this fight isn't going to end with a defunded law.
The Delay strategy is at least aimed at an achievable goal. Its outlines are contained in a letter engineered by Heather Higgins, CEO of Independent Women's Voice. The letter was crafted with the aid of influential repeal activists--Phil Kerpen at American Commitment, Grover Norquist and Ryan Ellis at Americans for Tax Reform, the Galen Institute's Grace-Marie Turner, Jim Capretta, Ken Hoagland, Avik Roy, the list rolls on--and now has more than 40 signatures. The letter calls on congressional Republican leaders to use one of this fall's legislative fights to impose a one-year delay of ObamaCare's individual mandate, exchange subsidies and taxes.
The political calculus is that delay, unlike defund, pushes Democrats to do something that many are already inclined to do. The president himself has endorsed delay for key parts of the bill--the employer mandate, out-of-pocket-caps, income verification requirements. Unions, the bedrock of the liberal base, are demanding wholesale changes in the law. Vulnerable Senate Democrats know the ObamaCare exchanges are a pending disaster, and they are terrified of political fallout. Twenty-two House Democrats in July voted with Republicans to delay the individual mandate.
An ObamaCare delay, the coalition argues, is also in line with public opinion. Whereas shutdown would prove a complex and messy PR job, the public is already highly educated on the big ObamaCare issues. A majority opposes provisions like the individual mandate, and is worried by the exchanges. The president's own delays have handed Republicans powerful messaging tools. They can enlist the public to pressure Democrats to grant individuals the same mandate reprieve Mr. Obama has gifted to business, and to delay exchanges that lack the verification and security procedures necessary to protect taxpayers and confidential information.
Delay proponents maintain this strategy answers the "last chance" question. A one-year delay would kick these provisions to the heat of the 2014 midterms, a point at which Democrats will be more loath to continue. It provides Republicans the opportunity to make 2014 another referendum on ObamaCare, furthering their cause of holding the House and retaking the Senate--at which point they'd be far better positioned to dismantle the law. A government shutdown would only hurt their election prospects.
I am becoming more sympathetic to the defunders who claim little in the way of political consequences for a government shutdown. Congres is in such ill repute with the public that a shutdown probably won't have much effect at all on public opinion. Voters will just chalk it up to typical congressional gridlock and not punish either side.
But if it's a question of blocking Obamacare, the route to that goal is far more possible with a delay rather than defund. It could very well be that this time next month, the prospects of a monumental disaster with Obamacare's rollout and the opening of the exchanges might make even the president amendable to a delay. It will certainly make skittish Democrats more likely to support a delay.
Delaying Obamacare is responsible governance. Shutting down the government isn't. That should be the bottom line when Republicans decide what to do to block the law from taking effect.