The Republican establishment resists President Obama and his agenda only when it knows that resistance is futile, token and sure to be inconsequential — when it’s good for a campaign commercial about how hard the GOP is working to undo Obamacare, not when it’s about actually working hard to undo Obamacare. For most Senate Republicans, the vote on an anti-Obamacare amendment in the context of authorizing national defense programs that Republicans knew they were never going to block was a pose — just like the 40-odd votes to repeal Obamacare that had no chance of becoming law.
By contrast, the current defunding effort is a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is moment: Risk a government shutdown over Obamacare funding under circumstances where Republicans could be blamed, but where (a) Obamacare is very unpopular and its downside consequences are just beginning to kick in; (b) the defunding strategy includes a commitment to fund the rest of government so it can be demonstrated that Obama would really be the one shutting down the government over Obamacare; and (c) Obama himself has already unilaterally and unconstitutionally defunded aspects of Obamacare, including repugnant accommodations for big corporations, Obama insiders, and members of Congress — such that, if the government shuts down, Republicans can compellingly argue that they are only insisting that the American people get the same relief from this awful law that Obama cronies, the ruling class, and the politically-connected get.
It may not work. Even if it doesn’t, though, it could have long-term benefits as Democrats up for election in 2014 and 2016 — Democrats who have gotten Obamacare fixes for themselves — are forced to defend Obamacare in the light of day. And for conservatives, it is a chance to see which Republicans are for real and which ones talk a good game as long as it’s just a game.
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