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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Obamacare hangs in the balance -- By Douglas Holtz-Eakin, The Washington Times

The public budget debate has been hijacked by a vociferous minority of activist conservatives aligned with a number of outside activist groups led by the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz and former Sen. Jim DeMint.

Using a variety of political threats and purity tests, they have been demanding a vote on a bill to fund the government that includes "defunding Obamacare." Now that the House has passed the funding bill, they are getting their chance to prove that their strategy will work. Here's why it won't:

Resistance to the proposal had been based not on any love for President Obama's health care scheme, but on a balancing of the chances for success of this strategy against the risks inherent in presenting Mr. Obama and the Senate with an ultimatum that will cause neither to back down.

Let's look at what might happen. The House on Friday passed a bill that will keep the government funded through mid-December and would defund Obamacare. However, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid will amend it to strip out defunding, shorten the time period for which the government is funded, drop in a few progressive favorites, run the clock, and send it back to the House as close to the Sept. 30 deadline as possible. If so, at least Senate Democrats will be forced to vote for or against Obamacare. This, given public hostility to the plan, should cause some of them heartburn, thereby buying the same thing that would have been accomplished by House Speaker John A. Boehner's earlier proposal that was dismissed by these same folks as a mere "gimmick."

In fact, Mr. Cruz has already conceded this scenario is likely. After months of tweets, town halls and chest-thumping about the House needing to take the fight to the Senate, Mr. Cruz volunteered that Mr. Reid "likely has the votes" to "strip the defund language" just one day after the strategy was announced. Talk about irony when the leading senator yelling at the House to "fight" for three months concedes defeat on Day One of the ball being in his court.


A delay, on the other hand, could give Republicans a chance to make their case to the American voter rather than to Mr. Reid and his buddies, and that could change everything.

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