Feature

Obamacare showdown

Conservative lawmakers in the House insist they will not fund the government unless Obamacare is delayed or dismantled.

A shutdown of the federal government on Oct. 1 appeared almost inevitable this week, as the House Republican leadership struggled unsuccessfully to appease conservative lawmakers who insist they will not fund the government unless Democrats agree to delay or dismantle Obamacare. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) planned to pass a bill this week funding the government past Oct. 1 but cutting all allocations for Obamacare. That bill will almost certainly be rejected by the Senate’s Democratic majority and sent back to the House. Unless conservatives then drop their drive to defund the law—or Boehner can pass a bill with Democrats that leaves Obamacare intact—the government will shut down.

The GOP’s leadership was offering conservatives an alternative—a bill tying a debt ceiling increase to a one-year delay of Obamacare. The government will default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised by the end of October. Obama said he would not submit to GOP attempts to “extort’’ a change in policy. “It would fundamentally change how American government functions,” Obama said.

Both Democrats and Republicans want the shutdown to happen, said Noam Scheiber in NewRepublic.com. Obama and the Democrats are happy to let the GOP take the public blame for the pain that will come from halting federal government services, while Tea Party conservatives will be cheered for their defiance in their districts. Even Boehner may welcome a shutdown if the resulting public anger means he can start “talking sense into his people.”

It’s not too late for Republicans to turn back, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. When the national parks close and soldiers lose their pay, a “wave of revulsion” will crash over the GOP, taking away its leverage in future spending negotiations and damaging its electoral prospects in congressional elections in 2014. “Kamikaze missions rarely turn out well, least of all for the pilots.”

Boehner is failing his party and the nation, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. Instead of talking down the House’s Tea Party crazies, Boehner is tantalizing them with the “more dangerous and less credible” promise of a debt ceiling fight. Threatening to torpedo the U.S. economy to satisfy the Tea Party “is not leadership,” said Jonathan Capehart in WashingtonPost.com. “It’s surrender.”

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