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Throughout the budget debate that culminated in a 16-day government shutdown, right-wing Obamacare opponents claimed that it was their “last chance” to stop the health reform law. Ultimately, that last-ditch effort was a total failure. Republicans didn’t achieve any major changes to Obamacare in the compromise to re-open the government.
Nonetheless, right-wing Republicans are doubling down on their failed strategy. Rather than conceding that they’re out of chances to get rid of Obamacare, conservatives are simply changing their tune. Now, GOPers say they won’t give up the fight:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): The Tea Party lawmaker was the primary architect of the GOP’s shutdown strategy. But now that it’s failed, Cruz won’t admit defeat. “I would do anything, and I will continue to do anything, to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare,” he said on Thursday. He has also hinted that he hasn’t ruled out pushing for another government shutdown over Obamacare.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA): Vitter tried to use the funding negotiations to push through an Obamacare-related amendment that would ultimately force Congress members and their staff to pay more for their health plans under the law. He was unsuccessful, and the final agreement didn’t include his amendment. But Vitter isn’t fazed and promises to keep pushing to amend the law anyway. “I’m not going away, and this issue is certainly not going away,” Vitter said on Fox News this week.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): Speaking on the Senate floor over the summer, Rubio told his colleagues that shutting down the government represented “our last chance and our last best chance” to undermine Obamacare. Now, the senator is saying that Republicans will keep fighting anyway. This week, he told Fox News that there is going to an “all-out revolt” next year, once the rest of Obamacare’s major provisions take root. “And that is, I think, the moment to absolutely act and say we are going to get rid of this law and then look for opportunities in the future to replace it,” Rubio said.
The Heritage Foundation: During the shutdown battle, Heritage’s political arm told its supporters that it needed their support because “we only have one more chance to repeal Obamacare.” The group didn’t deliver. Now, Heritage is simply assuring its supporters that it won’t stop fighting the law. The group’s president, Jim DeMint, published an op-ed this week claiming that most Americans’ lives “are not dominated by the electoral cycle,” so those people “shouldn’t have to wait three more years for Congress to give them relief from this law.”
FreedomWorks: The right-wing group recently claimed that shutting down the government “may be the last best chance to defund Obamacare before it goes into effect.” Rather than adjusting their strategy, the group is now planning rallies to discourage young Americans from signing up for health coverage. The group says that Obamacare will still be a losing issue for Democrats up for re-election in red states — although outside polling has shown that the shutdown fiasco has made more than a dozen House seats more winnable for Democrats.
Mainstream Republican leaders, on the other hand, have admitted recently that the ongoing crusade against Obamacare is hurting their party as a whole. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told the Hill that he won’t allow another government shutdown in another futile attempt to stop health reform, particularly after the hit to Republicans’ approval ratings. “I think we have fully now acquainted our new members with what a losing strategy that is,” he noted.
As the shutdown demonstrated, however, it doesn’t necessarily matter what the GOP leadership thinks. Last month, as the deadline to pass a continuing resolution drew near, mainstream members of the GOP indicated that they didn’t support shutting down the government over Obamacare. At least 49 Republicans publicly came out against the strategy. Nonetheless, Republicans ended up falling in line behind Ted Cruz anyway.
It may be an uphill battle for far-right Republicans. Obamacare has actually gotten more popular over the past month, and polling has consistently shown that voters oppose efforts to undermine health reform. In a moment of clarity earlier this week, even the Heritage Foundation acknowledged that “everybody understands” it’s politically impossible to repeal Obamacare right now.