Thursday, October 17, 2013

Shutdown aftermath

During our recent government crisis, I argued that the strategy of defunding ObamaCare through government spending bills would succeed in shutting down the government but would not succeed in ending or delaying ObamaCare. Now that the strategy has played out with little success, the Wall Street Journal – America’s largest conservative newspaper – offers this assessment:
For weeks [Senator Ted] Cruz scolded his fellow Republicans as the "surrender caucus" and closet supporters of ObamaCare because they wouldn't support his strategy to tie a vote to fund the government to defunding ObamaCare. His GOP colleagues thought the Cruz strategy was futile, and politically dumb, as it proved to be. Yet now even Mr. Cruz is admitting that there are limits to what Republicans can achieve when they control only one house of Congress. Maybe he's learning, or maybe his earlier accusations were, well, less than sincere.

Speaking of admissions, one of the ringleaders of the shutdown caucus conceded Wednesday that he always knew ObamaCare couldn't be defunded this year. "Well, everybody understands that we're not going to be able to repeal this law until 2017 and that we have to win the Senate and win the White House," Michael Needham of the Heritage Action political operation told Fox News.

That's also true, but wait. If the defund cause was always futile as some of us argued, why spend weeks pursuing a strategy he knew would fail? And why run ads declaring the opposite, as Heritage Action did, in Congressional districts held by Republicans who actually oppose ObamaCare? Mr. Needham and his allies claim to be tribunes of the people, but they're the ones who treated the public like rubes by misleading it about what was politically possible.

Rich Lowry, editor of the most widely read conservative magazine, National Review, makes a similar argument:
. . . [T]he defunders gave Sen. Harry Reid the shutdown confrontation that he was more than happy to fight, because he knew it would be such a potent partisan tool for his side. The defunders stormed the barricades at their strongest point. They exhibited no willingness to distinguish among bad options or appreciation for what was really achievable.

At best, their approach was a high-risk, low-reward strategy. As it turns out, there wasn't even any reward.
. . . Sen. Ted Cruz, the very able point man for the defunders, kept the strategy afloat longer than most people would have expected, but even he could never explain persuasively the path from a shutdown to the desired end of a signing ceremony in the White House defunding the president’s signature piece of legislation.

With the shutdown behind us, it’s worth considering which steps conservatives should now take in our fight for smaller, more effective government.
As for ObamaCare, I have warned for years that the program would be disastrous. Its awful rollout was predictable and inevitable. In my opinion, instead of trying to repeal ObamaCare through legislative gimmicks that are doomed to fail, Congress needs to develop free-market alternatives that will dramatically improve healthcare without relying on heavy-handed government intervention. Along with representatives in the House and Senate, I have proposed an initiative – the Patient’s Choice Act – that would achieve these goals. I am encouraging my colleagues in Congress either to support this act or present their own proposals to replace ObamaCare.

We must also continue our fight against the ruinous debt that jeopardizes our economy and our children’s future. The Congressional Budget Office now predicts that American debt will exceed 100 percent of our annual economic output in less than 25 years. The 75-year projections are even more alarming. Paying these bills would require an amount of money equal to the combined 2009 gross domestic product – every single dollar – of the entire planet. Once again, I believe the best strategy is not to rely on legislative tricks, but to convince the American people that we conservatives have a responsible plan to balance the budget, reduce our debt, and reform entitlement programs that are careening toward insolvency.
For more information on the end of the shutdown, listen to my conversation with conservative, nationally syndicated talk radio host John Batchelor here.