I love the Tea Party members of Congress. They’re courageous, principled and, at times, innovative in their use of legislative rules to make major statements about policy. It’s too bad they face a wily foe who poses as their friend. You see, the GOP leadership in Congress is committed to Tea Party failure, especially concerning Obamacare.
The latest Tea Party initiative is Senator Mike Lee’s plan to kill the continuing resolution (the bill that funds the government) unless Obamacare is stripped of funding. Lee’s plan is a good one, but sadly, I’m going to predict its failure.
In the end, Republicans who claim to be against Obamacare will scurry like scared children to protect Obamacare’s funding — just as they’ve done at the passage of each continuing resolution since they captured Congress in 2010.
Lee described his plan this way to WBAL Radio:
“I’ll utilize every procedural mechanism at my disposal to do it.” He continued, “I generally don’t signal in advance what procedural maneuvers exactly I’ll use because it’s usually not good strategy. But what I am saying is I will not vote for a continuing resolution that contains funding for further Obamacare implantation and enforcement. So far I have got, I don’t know, 13 or 14 Senate Republicans who have joined me. I think a corresponding effort is starting to be kicked off in the House. And I expect these numbers to grow steadily as Americans realize the president has said he’s not going to implement the law as written. If he’s not going to implement the law, we shouldn’t be forced to fund it.”
The Lee plan is based on sound logic. If Obama won’t follow the law as passed, why should Congress continue to fund his autocratic and capricious manipulation of the program?
The problem Senator Lee and other principled members of Congress don’t seem to grasp is that their plan disrupts the business-as-usual consensus that governs Washington. Their bold plan endangers the power of the established elite and the Republicans who enjoy being part of that elite.
In reality, here’s how the situation will unfold.
Mike Lee will announce the Tea Party plan to great fanfare. Many Republicans in the Senate and in the House will embrace the plan. But the elite in both parties will come together and congeal to protect the status quo. They’ll work to get other conservatives to attack the plan and muddy the waters. They won’t attack the substance of the plan, they’ll just knock it for being unrealistic or unobtainable.
In fact,a conservative senator -Tom Coburn- has already gotten the ball rolling. He blasted the plan right on cue.
Coburn explained his opposition to the Lee plan to the Washington Examiner: “I’d be leading the charge if I thought this would work. But it will not work.”
And he charged Senator Lee and others of being dishonest: “The worst thing is being dishonest with your base about what you can accomplish, ginning everybody up and then creating disappointment… It’s a terribly dangerous and not successful strategy… You’re going to set an expectation among the conservatives in our party that we can achieve something that we’re not able to achieve.”
Coburn continued, “It’s not an achievable strategy. It’s creating the false impression that you can do something when you can’t. And it’s dishonest.”
But the real problem isn’t that the Lee plan is dishonest. In fact, the plan is incredibly honest and straightforward. The real problem is that it’s bold, it requires courage, and it exposes the real dishonesty – the dishonesty of the Republican leadership.
You see, the Republican leaders will hold vote after vote to symbolically repeal Obamacare. They’ve repealed Obamacare a number of times in the U.S. House already. But when they’ve held these votes, John Boehner and the Republican leaders knew they had zero chance of becoming law. They love votes that make a statement but don’t change things.
The problem with the Lee plan, while it could work, is that its high risk – it could possibly shut the government down. And politicians hate shutting down the fountain of their power, perks, prestige and purpose.
Your eyes on the Hill,