Economics, Health Care, Pethokoukis

Defunding Obamacare is magical thinking masquerading as serious policy


Very much in the spirit of my blog post earlier today, AEI economist Stan Veuger sensibly points out the flaws in the GOP’s “defund Obamacare” strategy. It’s bad practical politics:

But if Republicans demand that the president defund, delay or repeal his main domestic-policy accomplishment, the president says no  … and the government shuts down, moderate voters are likely to think: “Well, that’s a bit uncalled for. Why would Republicans think that the president was going to torpedo his whole agenda?” It will make Republicans look irresponsible, it will divert attention from President Obama’s muddled Syria policy, it will make it less likely that they win back the Senate and the White House in the near future and, as a consequence, ultimately make it harder, not easier, to reform or repeal Obamacare.

And it’s also constitutionally dubious:

It is not a good moment to ask for the full surrender of all power to one house of Congress: if that were what the founders had in mind, they would not have gone through the trouble of creating a second house of Congress and an executive branch to jointly deal with budgetary issues.

And let me add that the GOP negotiating position would be much stronger if they demonstrated some consensus on real-world healthcare reform to de facto replace Obamacare. Also not sure that Republicans should, as part of a debt ceiling deal, exchange a one-year delay  of the individual mandate and other aspects of the law for ending the sequester cuts. Again, GOP not likely to come out ahead politically, plus there’s the potential damage that could be inflicted on the economy.

18 thoughts on “Defunding Obamacare is magical thinking masquerading as serious policy

  1. The whole point of Congress is to decide what taxpayers’ money gets spent on. If a program exists that proves to be a failure, it’s not only possible for Congress to stop funding that program, it’s their fiduciary responsibility. It doesn’t matter whether that responsibility hurts the president’s feelings or impairs his political legacy. They were elected as the people’s representatives; the vast majority of the people oppose ObamaCare — continuing to fund a program they were elected to repeal would be a dereliction of duty.

  2. But it could work . It requires that the R’s and their conservative allies message the issues correctly and effectively . ” Not only have you lost your MD and your ins , but more and more of you are losing your jobs and there’s worse to come ” . And playing their parliamentary cards right so that Harry Reid is the face of the CR shutdown . If ever there was gift to the messaging bit , it is the face and demeanor of Mr Reid . And lastly a bit off message ,but tie the lies and incompetence of the Benghazi and Syria foreign policy debacle to the coming “trainwreck ” , ie “The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight ” meme .

  3. Let’s say the R’s succeed. what keeps them from using that same approach on any other program?

    just delete it from the CR and dare the POTUS to veto it.

    Ends up being a de-facto line item veto for Congress, right?

    the GOP is in denial.. Benghazi? really? I say we should go back and re-investigate Iran Contra… and the Marine Barracks at Beirut and I’m equal opportunity.. let’s go back and investigate the Cole and the Sudan Pharmaceutical bombing or Abu Ghraib or Gitmo water-boarding… the GOP is in denial about the last election.. they just can’t get over it.

    time to move on guys…

    • Read the constitution! Appropriation bills start in the House. they have every right to fund or defund any program they desire. In the instant case this program is hurting the economy – they have duty to take action.

    • Benghazi was a fustercluck from the get-go. A truly foreseeable, indeed telegraphed event, ignored both passively (incompetence) and actively (reality denial), failure to dare engage when that was still, at least potentially, viable, and a massive coverup as a sop to Hillary’s 2016 bid.

      Iran Contra was an albeit illegal get around of Congress’ intransigence vis a vis the Contra rebels. Both the Saudi and Beirut bombings were early in this war-on-the-west and not so nearly as foreseeable, but you do have at least an arguable sense of culpability with Beirut.

      Yeah, Clinton nailed a Pharma plant at a critical point in his Nail the Intern saga. Must’ve been Bush’s fault, somehow..

      Abu Ghraib was a stupid event in which the stupid ones got prosecuted. Not even close to the scale of Benghazi.

      Water boarding? I get tired of this. Go read a book, Courting Disaster, by Marc Thiessen, then you can talk intelligently about the subject.

    • Line Item Veto?
      They’ve always had that; it’s called legislating. Congress writes the lines.
      It’s the president who doesn’t get to decide what lines are included or removed.
      Surely you’ve got something better than that.

      • re: ” it’s called legislating.”

        actually in a CR – and I could be wrong but I believe you can only affect funding for existing legislation – not repeal it.

        but this has always been a option available to Congress for all programs.

        For instance, they could “de-fund” Medicare…..or NSA etc.

  4. I don’t think it is too much to ask of Republican Congressmen and Senators that they, as members of the opposition party, do all they can to thwart implmentation of the single most unpopular, poorly drafted, and unworkable legislation ever forced down the throats of the American people.

    I’m told GOP leadership is following a ‘pick your battles’ strategy–which is fine, I guess, except they never seem to fight.

  5. The AFL-CIO, which represents many of the country’s largest unions who happen to be one of the Democrat Party’s biggest constituents and donors, is now in open revolt against Obamacare. Further, a CNN poll released this week showed that only 39% of those polled support some or all of Obamacare while 57% want some or all of it repealed.

    With support falling with important Democrat constituents and those poll numbers, it not only can be done but it would be good politics to do it.

    Yet all these wizards of smart who live in a bubble between Washington and NYC tell each other how ridiculous and stupid the idea is. As usual, the chattering bobbleheads are divorced from the rest of the real world.

  6. Does anyone remember the shellacking taken by “blue dog democrats” in 2010. They are now extinct because they followed Pelosi lock-step and did not listen to their constituency. Anyone else find it ironic that this “follow the party to get and agreement” is exactly what stuck us with Obamacare?

  7. A law was passed to build the border fence (Secure Fence Act – HR.6061). The reason that it’s not there is that it was defunded. Why is it ok for Democrats to defund laws so that they don’t get implemented, but Republicans can’t?

  8. I find Pethokoukis is almost as bad on economics and politics as Krugman. If the Repubs listen to this idiotic advice and fail to finish off OCare they will be the target of the Tea Party in 2014 and will be completely wipe out!

  9. So let me see if I get this straight. Obama or the Senate decides they’d rather shut down the government than defund one program.

    And the moderate voters would blame the House GOP for assailing the President’s signature program.

    With thinking like this, you guys might as well be progressive leftists. I somehow doubt moderate voters are so heavily invested in seeing Obamacare become the law of the land they’d blame the GOP for the Democrats’ decision to shut down the government to protect it.

  10. The questions is not whether the Republicans should desire to defund Obamacare but rather whether the Republicans can be SUCCESSFUL in defunding Obamacare? And the answer is clearly: No, they will not be, because they only control one half of one third of the gov’t (and only a fraction of the Obamasequious media) They may be successful in shutting down the gov’t, but that’s the (extremely flawed) means, not the end, and that particular means WILL NOT result in the desired end of ACTUALLY defunding Obamacare. So why bother when the effort will result only in alienating voters we’ll need in the mid-terms to take control of the Senate? I hate Obamacare as much as the next guy, but there’s a huge difference between wanting to defund it and actually being able to do it. The only way to get rid of Obamacare is to get rid of Obama, but that didn’t happen and won’t until 2017.

    It sounds like an underwear gnome project:
    Step 1: Pass a bill in the House to defund Obamacare
    Step 2: ?
    Step 3: End Obamacare

  11. Yeah, let’s forget the millions who’ll suffer needlessly under this ruinous law, and those already losing their jobs and coverage. It’s “bad politics” says the GOP squishes, so that’s that. Liberals run the media and they’ll blame republicans for a shut down. So just stand down. “Moderates” are just simple-minded rubes too clueless to understand obamacare’s something other than magic boyfriend’s chief “accomplishment”, so they’ll be bewildered by this act of spitefulness and rush into the arms of democrats. Do I have this right?

    • I think it’s pretty clear what the problem is. As people start to sign up for insurance they could not get before…. later on – the GOP – assuming they win a majority – are going to be put in the position of taking away folks insurance or even HORRORS actually have to come up with something real!

      The GOP could give a rats behind about people who can’t get insurance much less those who actually lose their jobs – unless they can blame Obamacare.

      There’s going to be a pile of people who sign up for ObamaCare… and that’s going to be a huge problem downstream for the GOP.

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