It is difficult to describe the radical Republicans in Congress without resort to metaphors. As followers of this space know, the term favored here is Oozlums—referring to the legendary bird that flies in ever-decreasing concentric circles until it flies up into itself. That is indeed the flight path the radical “conservatives” have prescribed for the Republican Party. The current crusade of the Oozlums to attempt to defund Obamacare at all costs has earned them another fitting term. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal, surely not a watering hole for RINOs, described the frenzied crusaders as the Kamikaze wing of the party: “Republicans must threaten to crash their Zeros into the aircraft carrier of Obamacare…. Kamikaze missions rarely turn out well, least of all for the pilots.”
Attempting to defund Obamacare at all costs, means of course, at the cost of refusing to pass a Continuing Resolution and precipitating a government shutdown, or refusing to raise the debt limit and precipitating a default on government obligations. Some cost. Either event would be damaging, and potentially catastrophic to the economy and to the Republican Party. Not surprisingly, other stalwarts on the right, who would themselves be happy to repeal or defund Obamacare, have been openly skeptical of the Oozlums’ plan and wary of its consequences. For example, Jim Geraghty, of National Review Online wrote that, “if you don’t think there’s at least a chance that the public recoils from a government shutdown and overwhelmingly blames the Republicans for this… well then, you’re willfully blind. This isn’t something that is guaranteed to work as long as we believe in it enough. This isn’t Tinkerbell.”
Nevertheless, the initial Oozlum Caucus, estimated at 40 members in the House, appears to have metastasized. On Friday, the entire House passed, with only one Republican voting against, a Continuing Resolution without funding for Obamacare. The CR has no chance of passing the Senate. If not blocked by a Republican filibuster, the Senate will pass a CR that includes funding for Obamacare. What happens then is unclear, but a government shutdown appears quite possible, given the Oozlums’ views of shutdowns – which range from indifference to morbid enthusiasm. Recently, the Oozlums have been arguing that the consequences of a shutdown would not be all that severe, pointing out the 1995 shutdown did not result in significant Republican losses in Congress. As others have pointed out, however, the 1995 frolic effectively ended the Gingrich revolution and revived Bill Clinton’s political fortunes, leading to his resounding re-election in 1996.
Moreover, the situation this time is quite different, as the threat of a shutdown is paired as a two-horse entry with the even graver threat of default. It now appears that House Republicans will seek to encumber the unavoidable increase in the debt ceiling with a veritable Christmas Tree of ideological ornaments unacceptable to the Senate and the President. As The Washington Post reported:“House Republicans expect to vote as soon as next week to give Treasury enough borrowing authority to get through the 2014 midterm elections. In return, Cantor said, they will shoot for a grab bag of modest trophies, including approval of the Keystone pipeline, a timetable for tax reform and “a variety of other measures designed to lower energy prices, simplify our tax system and get our economy going.” The most charitable way of looking at such maneuvering is as a form of kabuki theater. But can the nation afford the ticket?
Another major difference between 1995 and 2013 is that the economy today is still in a period of slow recovery from a major recession and the financial markets are far more vulnerable and volatile. Any government shutdown of more than a few days, and certainly a default or even the prospect of imminent default on government securities, could easily send the markets into a tailspin, taking the broader economy with them. And if the markets – and 401 (k) accounts – plunge, and unemployment soars, voters will not likely forget it soon. Nor should they.
RINOcracy.com has not been a friend or supporter of Obamacare. Indeed, the introduction to the site observed: “The most significant initiative of the Obama Administration, the Affordable Health Care Act, had worthy objectives, but in practice seems increasingly to be exposed as an expensive and cumbersome apparatus that cannot be sustained. (Readers of a certain age may recognize an analogy to devices created by Rube Goldberg.)” Some Republicans, indeed even some RINOs, would cast an even harsher light on Obamacare and perhaps deservedly so.. On the other hand, frantic cries from the right that implementing of Obamacare will “destroy the country,” can hardly be taken seriously. In any case, however much one dislikes or fears Obamacare, the attempt to defund it at the point of a political gun simply will not work.
Why then has the defunding craze gained so much momentum? One answer is the familiar one: the gerrymandering of districts has artificially inflated the power of the most conservative elements of the Republicans. Another answer is that the defunding notion has been supported by a variety of well-heeled outside pressure groups, who place ads and zealously “score” the votes of members of Congress. Republicans, it has been reported, are now spending more money on ads attacking other Republicans than attacking Democrats. One such group has created a website with a table of Republican Senators showing those who have pledged to vote against any CR that did not defund Obamacare, those who have declined to make such a pledge and those who are undecided. The website includes contact information and urges visitors to the site to contact individual Senators demanding that that they sign a letter, drafted by Senator Mike Lee with the support of Senator Ted Cruz, pledging that they will vote against (and support a filibuster against) any CR that does not defund Obamacare. To encourage such contacts the site helpfully provides for each Senator a telephone number and links to Facebook and email.
RINOs have too often been known for passivity, but passivity is a luxury we can no longer afford. The founding motto of RINOcracy.com was “RINOs, let us unite and put our hides on the line to save our party from itself.” This is the time to do exactly that. RINOs and our friends should proceed directly to the website just described, www.dontfundobamacare.com, and send our own message calling on Senators who have signed the Lee pledge, or are considering doing so, to reject tha futile and dangerous maneuver of Senators Lee and Cruz. At the same time, Senators who have refused to sign the pledge should be given a pat on the back for exercising political and serving their country and their party.
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