Would Republicans really shut down the government to stop ObamaCare?

Tea Partiers are threatening to do whatever it takes to block the heart of the health-care law

Mike Lee
(Image credit: Pete Marovich/ZUMA Press/Corbis)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is leading a GOP push in Senate to shut down the government in the fall to prevent the implementation of looming reforms under President Obama's health care law. Lee, a Tea Party hero, told Fox News on Monday that refusing to fund ObamaCare was the last remaining way to stop the law's individual mandate and insurance exchanges from launching at the start of next year.

In theory, Republicans could pull it off by blocking a continuing resolution to keep the government funded at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Such a drastic move, just months before the beginning of a mid-term election year, is bound to be controversial with voters who are growing tired of partisan dysfunction in Washington.

Will the GOP make good on the threat?

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The conventional wisdom is that the party leadership — specifically Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — want to avoid this kind of destructive spectacle. Rick Moran at The American Thinker says, however, that they might not have much choice. "Both leaders," he says, "face a revolt of their members if they don't pull the trigger."

I think it more than likely that there will be a government shutdown over ObamaCare and that it is likely to be a long one.The GOP can win this one if they get busy making their case now. They have statistics to back up their rhetoric about ObamaCare ruining the economy, costing full time jobs, raising insurance rates, and turning America into a part-time employee nation. They can also point to the massive incompetence of the Obama administration in rolling out ObamaCare and the state insurance exchanges. [American Thinker]

Not everyone is so apocalyptic, though. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example, told conservative talk-show host Michael Medved that he would love to repeal ObamaCare, but blocking it in a fight over the debt limit and keeping the government funded is out of the question. "So some would like to set up another one of these shutdown-the-government threats," he said. "And most Americans are really tired of those kinds of shenanigans here in Washington."

The party's base is exerting tremendous pressure on Republican lawmakers to do something, though. "The GOP has managed to talk itself into a very firm belief that this national version of Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health plan is a satanic abomination," says Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly. The leadership does not have much time to sell its troops on something other than the nuclear option.

If Mitch McConnell and John Boehner don’t like the idea, they’d better come up with an alternative strategy for dealing with the autumn fiscal "crisis" and give it some momentum. Otherwise the thrill of imagining themselves denying government-enabled health insurance to 25 or 30 million people could so excite conservative activists that there will be no stopping them. [Washington Monthly]

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.