This past week, Charles Krauthammer, who is pro-Republican and is on the Fox News Special Report panel, has been arguing that Republicans should not be trying to defund Obamacare by drawing a red line on the budget but by making it a condition of raising the debt ceiling. But he is wrong on many levels.
First, he is preaching the fear that Republicans will be blamed for a government shutdown, and they can’t take that risk. But history proves that not to be a valid fear. There have been many government shutdowns over the years – during the Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton administrations. They have never proved to be problematic for Republicans. The last shutdown, in 1995, is cited by Mr. Krauthammer as being a disaster for Republicans, but it was actually the opposite. Yes, the media blamed Republicans. But the voters returned Republicans to control of the House in the 1996 election and rewarded them with two additional Senate seats. And remember that the distrust of the media is currently at an all-time low.
Second, he is using poll results to choose his battles, a risky strategy. Most people who are polled do not want the debt ceiling raised, and most also fear a government shutdown. But those fears could flip-flop quickly in a media onslaught. What if financial markets actually get roiled over the failure to raise the debt ceiling? No, we have been through this government shutdown scenario before, and it worked out fine for Republicans. That’s a better battleground. Congress has never refused to raise the debt ceiling. We don’t know where that road goes.
Furthermore, failing to raise the debt ceiling could have the unintended consequence of transferring the power to raise the debt ceiling to the executive. Obama is being encouraged by Democrats to raise it unilaterally. While this is grossly unconstitutional and would be an impeachable offense, you know that members of Congress would not dare even utter that “i” word.
And how much of this polling that is opposed to letting the government be shut down is a result by the barrage of media conservatives preaching that Republicans will be blamed? How much of that polling comes from Republicans who would really just as soon see the government shut down but they believe that Republicans will suffer because of it, because of what people like Charles Krauthammer are telling them?
Remember that people’s attitudes toward the federal government have taken a dramatic turn for the worse recently. NSA spying, IRS targeting – scandal upon scandal – have all undermined our trust. Deep down inside, the voters that Republicans care about, I believe, are more afraid of what the government might do to them than they are of a shutdown.
Additionally, cutting off the funding for Obamacare is a natural part of the budget process. Tacking it on as a condition for raising the debt ceiling is an unnatural thing. Yes, that is where Republicans should go. Stick to your guns. Fund the entire government except for Obamacare and let’s see if the Democrats will shut down the government over that.
Click here to visit the Liberty Musings conservative politics home page.