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Far-right support for GOP shutdown threat grows

As best as I can tell, Sen. Marco Rubio was first. At a speech two weeks ago, the Florida Republican argued that Congress should shut down the government
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

As best as I can tell, Sen. Marco Rubio was first. At a speech two weeks ago, the Florida Republican argued that Congress should shut down the government instead of funding the federal health care system. If Democrats agreed to defund "Obamacare," then Rubio would back off the shutdown threat.

A week later, campaigning in Iowa, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said the same thing. On Fox this week, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) endorsed the idea. And all of a sudden, the shutdown threat is metastasizing.

The conservative Club for Growth is pushing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to use the threat of a government shutdown to deny funds for ObamaCare.The group urged McConnell on Wednesday to back an effort led by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to filibuster any government funding bill that includes money for the healthcare law.Lee has been circulating a letter summarizing the plan. It has 15 signatures so far, according to the Club.

Whether the letter actually has 15 signatures is unclear, but a related letter has circulated among House Republicans, and according to proponents, it's picked up 64 signatories and counting.

Heritage Action, a more blatantly political offshoot of the Heritage Foundation, has not only endorsed the idea, it's practically obsessed -- the group announced yesterday that lawmakers would be "scored" on whether they co-sponsor a measure to block Obamacare funding, even if the result is a shutdown.

Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a fundraising group that supports conservative Republican challengers, told The Hill,"Any Republican who votes to give Obama a single penny to implement ObamaCare is part of the problem and should be defeated. Any Republican who votes to fund ObamaCare should have a primary challenger."

OK, now tell us how you really feel.

Even if we put aside policy and substance, I still think this is a strategic mess. There's obviously no realistic way Democrats are going to cave on this. So either Republicans cave or they take the blame for a government shutdown. It's as if GOP officials worked their way onto a branch and threatened to start sawing.

As for why Republicans are so hysterical on this all of a sudden, I think Kevin Drum's analysis rings true:

In a sense, I suppose this was inevitable. Republicans are convinced that once Obamacare goes into effect on January 1, it will become popular pretty quickly and repeal will be off the table forever. So the closer we get to D-Day, the more desperate they get to derail it.For what it's worth, I think Republicans are right to believe this. Behavioral economics taught us a long time ago that people react a lot more strongly to losing something than they do to not getting it in the first place. Once guaranteed issue and community rating and subsidies and all the rest have been in place for a year, even tea partiers will be loath to see them taken away.So it's now or never.

For what it's worth, I still think Democrats would be lucky if the Republican threats are sincere. An incumbent president's party nearly always struggles in a sixth-year midterm cycle, but if GOP lawmakers shut down the government over providing health care benefits to working families, all bets are off.