Morning Action: Conservative Legislative Showdown With President Obama and Senate
SHOWDOWN. A Wall Street Journal editorial from September 16 spoke critically of the conservative strategy to defund Obamacare (sub. req’d):
Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) floated a CR with an arcane procedure that would force the Senate to take an up-or-down vote on the anti-ObamaCare component. But pressure groups like Heritage Action and the Club for Growth rebelled and the vote had to be postponed, like so many other unforced retreats this Congress. Here we go again.
These critics portrayed the Boehner plan as a sellout because of a campaign that captured the imagination of some conservatives this summer: Republicans must threaten to crash their Zeros into the aircraft carrier of ObamaCare. Their demand is that the House pair the “must pass” CR or the debt limit with defunding the health-care bill. Kamikaze missions rarely turn out well, least of all for the pilots.
The problem is that Mr. Obama is never, ever going to unwind his signature legacy project of national health care.
Heritage Action CEO Michael A. Needham responded to this unjust criticism of the defund Obamacare strategy with the following WSJ letter to the editor (sub. req’d):
Your editorial compares conservatives fighting to defund ObamaCare to kamikazes, while conveniently ignoring the history of past legislative showdowns with President Obama.
The willingness of congressional conservatives to use the debt ceiling as leverage in 2011 resulted in the very sequester your editorial writers now want to lock in this fall. At the time though, your editorial writers explained they “never thought the debt ceiling was the best leverage” (“Debt-Limit Harakiri,” July 13, 2011). Had conservatives heeded their advice, this “rare policy victory” wouldn’t have occurred, and there would be no spending cuts to protect.
The lesson is clear: When conservatives use the legislative leverage that is available to fight for principled policy outcomes, they achieve results. When lawmakers publicly negotiate with themselves, it doesn’t increase leverage, advance conservative policy or demonstrate the type of leadership necessary to win national elections.
HARRY REID. Politico reports Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13%’s potential strategy to put Obamacare funding back in the continuing resolution:
The Senate’s top two Republican leaders — Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas — announced the push to defund the law wasn’t enough for them to block the stop-gap spending measure in the Senate. And Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is strongly considering advancing an amendment that would keep the government open until Nov. 15, rather than Dec. 15 as spelled out by the House-passed bill. He may also strip the House plan of a provision regarding how the U.S. should handle a potential debt default, sources say.
But after a week of theatrics, the Senate will eventually pass his amendment to strip out the Obamacare defunding language and keep the government operating — likely over the weekend — just hours before the government is set to shut down on Oct. 1.
PROCEDURE MATTERS. Heritage Action communications director Dan Holler explains why procedure is so important for policy in general in Washington, but especially for this fight over Obamacare:
At some point this week, the Senate will vote to end debate on the House-passed bill. (In Washington speak, they will vote to “invoke cloture.”) What does this mean? Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) 50% told Politico he would “vote to end debate on it, because [he likes] the policy.” But there is just one small problem: The vote is not on the underlying policy, but rather the procedure Reid has dictated. On Twitter, NBC’s Tom Curry pointed out pro-Obamacare Senators would vote alongside Sen. Corker “So that Majority Leader Reid can offer a motion to strike the defund Obamacare provision from the [continuing resolution] CR & then vote on the clean CR.”
Curry is exactly right. If the Senate does vote to end debate, Reid will immediately move to strike the defunding language. Because of the nature of the Senate’s rules, Reid would not need 60 votes; he could do so with a bare majority of just 51 votes.
Throughout August, Americans demanded that Congress fund the government but defund all of Obamacare. If anti-Obamacare Senators stand together, they can stop Harry Reid’s procedural assault.
MCCONNELL. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 40% said he will oppose a filibuster of House legislation defunding Obamacare:
Senator McConnell supports the House Republicans’ bill and will not vote to block it, since it defunds Obamacare and funds the government without increasing spending by a penny. He will also vote against any amendment that attempts to add Obamacare funding back into the House Republicans’ bill. If and when the Majority Leader goes down that path, Washington Democrats will have to decide — without hiding behind a procedural vote — whether or not to split with their leadership and join Republicans and their constituents in opposing the re-insertion of Obamacare funding into the House-passed bill.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) 47% has made a similar statement. The two lawmakers are apparently using their leadership positions in the Senate to undermine Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) 94%‘s efforts to defund Obamacare:
“Right now in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn are actively whipping Senators to shut down debate on the House continuing resolution so that Harry Reid can gut it with just 51 votes,” a senior congressional staffer with intimate knowledge of the situation said in an email to Breitbart News. “Unbelievably, they actually are leading the fight to fully fund Obamacare.”
Sen. Cruz intends to filibuster the House bill to prevent Sen. Harry Reid from funding Obamacare by means of a tricky procedural tactic. Conservative lawmakers have explained that a vote for cloture will make it easier for Senate Democrats to preserve Obamacare and funding for its implementation.
WHY FIGHT. Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint explains why conservatives are still fighting on Obamacare:
The Heritage Foundation has been talking about defunding Obamacare for some time now, and people may be wondering why. Why did we put up a billboard in Times Square warning Americans that Obamacare will be hazardous to their health? Why won’t we give up this fight?
Because we are fighting for you.
Every one of you is working hard to support your family, stay healthy, and make the best choices you can make. Obamacare is only getting in the way.
LOIS LERNER. Heritage notes that the IRS has announced the retirement of Lois Lerner, a central figure in the recent IRS scandal in which the agency targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups:
The IRS has announced the retirement of Lois Lerner, one of the key officials at the center of the scandal over the agency’s targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups that had applied for tax-exempt status.
Lerner, the former head of the IRS’s tax-exempt organizations office, had been on paid administrative leave since she asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to testify before the House Oversight Committee in May.
E-mails and other testimony by IRS employees have contradicted Lerner’s initial claims that this behavior was the result of low-level, rogue employees in the Cincinnati office of the IRS. We now know that high-level IRS employees in Washington as well as other IRS offices were involved.