ANALYSIS: House GOP’s ‘Defund Obamacare’ vote carries big risk
DENVER — House Republicans Friday, beholden to the caucus’s more conservative Tea Party wing, again demonstrated more of an interest in adhering to hard-line political positions than actually governing, never mind winning future national elections.
Speaker John Boehner and his members celebrated the passage of a stop-gap spending bill to fund the government through mid-December that also strips funding for the president’s landmark health care law — a bill that will never pass the Senate but one that is increasingly likely to result in a complete government shutdown.
If that happens, Republicans will bear the brunt of the blame.
The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board likened the House GOP strategy to a “kamikaze mission”; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush warned this week that the strategy is “dicey” for Republicans.
But Friday’s vote ignores such warnings from party stalwarts and the president’s veto threat.
It ignores reality.
Stunningly, it offers President Obama, whose leadership has been looking more feckless and reactive with each passing day, a golden opportunity to get back on a winning message.
“They will send our economy into a tailspin, just like Speaker Boehner said,” Obama said Friday during a rally at a Ford plant outside Kansas City. “Now they’ve gone beyond just holding Congress hostage, they’re holding the whole country hostage.”
In Denver Wednesday, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele bemoaned a “misalignment” between the ideology of the conservatives who appear to control the House GOP caucus and that of a majority of Americans, a problem that he predicts will lead to more Republican losses in 2014 and 2016.
“I think there’s more bottom to hit,” Steele said.
It wasn’t just the Tea Party Republicans who voted Friday to push the country closer to the brink of a government shutdown.
It was every House Republican, save one.
“We had a victory today for the American people, and frankly, we also had a victory for common sense,” Boehner said after the vote. “Our message to the United States Senate is real simple: The American people don’t want the government shutdown and they don’t want Obamacare.”
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, who, in an interview with FOX31 two weeks ago, expressed support for a “grand bargain” to resolve the impending fiscal impasse, voted with his fellow Republicans.
Unlike many of his House GOP colleagues, Coffman faces no threat of a primary challenge from the right — he didn’t need to shore up his credibility with the base.
Unlike most of his House GOP colleagues, Coffman faces a serious general election challenge because his district is actually competitive.
Coffman, who’s never lost an election, just happens to be among the most vulnerable incumbents in Congress.
That’s why Democrats blasted him in press releases, sent out just moments after Friday’s vote.
“Congressman Coffman just voted to go all-in on the Tea Party’s kamikaze mission — voting to shut down the U.S. government unless his demand to give insurance companies free rein over health care is met,” said Emily Bittner of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, blasted Republicans for pursuing what he called reckless policy, especially when Colorado, after a week of historic floods, is increasingly dependent on federal assistance as it begins to rebuild.
“We have to keep our country open to continue providing critical flood relief in Colorado and maintaining benefits and services for millions of American veterans, seniors, children and families,” Perlmutter said.
“The continuing resolution we were forced to vote on today is no way to run a country. Tea Party ideologues continue to treat their chosen job of governing like it’s a game and hijack the business of our country. The Speaker had the chance to do the right thing and offer a balanced plan to keep the government running through the end of the year, but instead he forced us to vote on another pointless, phony bill that risks the full faith and credit of our nation and takes away affordable access to health insurance for millions of people with pre-existing conditions.
“Like all Americans — I’m frustrated and exasperated we are forced to keep taking these sham votes.”
House Republicans attempted to put pressure on the Senate to act, even calling out four Democratic senators from red states who face reelection next year, hoping to force them into taking a politically risky position once again on Obamacare.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat who’s leading the party’s campaign efforts to retain a senate majority next year, ripped House Republicans for dozens of bull-headed votes to repeal Obamacare.
“How do you find time to repeal Obamacare 41 times but you can’t find time to pass the Farm Bill?” Bennet asked. “How do you not find the time to address immigration reform, something a broad majority of people in this country support?”