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Mike Lee pushes government-shutdown threat

With the end of the fiscal year approaching, Congress will need to approve a temporary spending measure -- called a "continuing resolution" -- to prevent a

With the end of the fiscal year approaching, Congress will need to approve a temporary spending measure -- called a "continuing resolution" -- to prevent a government shutdown. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have recently said they'll push for a shutdown unless Democrats agree to defund the Affordable Care Act -- a demand Dems will never accept.

But they're not the only ones. As Robert Schlesinger has noted, there's a third, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who's pushing the same line. The far-right Utahan made his case on Fox yesterday.

"Congress of course has to pass a law to continue funding government -- lately we've been doing that through a funding mechanism called a continuing resolution," Lee said. "If Republicans in both houses simply refuse to vote for any continuing resolution that contains further funding for further enforcement of Obamacare, we can stop it. We can stop the individual mandate from going into effect."

Now, other than simply sabotaging the federal health care system, it's not entirely clear what's driving the GOP's obsession with "stopping the individual mandate from going into effect." The individual mandate is, after all, a Republican idea. For that matter, if it doesn't go into effect, the result would be 13.7 million Americans without any health care coverage at all, and by Republicans' own admission, higher premiums and gaps for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

But even if we put the substance aside, note the nature of the political threat: if Democrats refuse to take health care benefits away from 13.7 million Americans, Republicans say they'll shut down the government. Indeed, according to Lee, this idea has the backing of "13 or 14" Senate Republicans and dozens of House Republicans.

This isn't going to work.

It's worth noting that Lee's plan is slightly different than Cruz's. The latter wants to shut down the government unless the entirety of "Obamacare" is scrapped, while the former says he's willing to leave the popular provisions in place while gutting the elements that make the popular parts possible.

But the right-wing lawmakers are effectively making the same pitch/threat: gut health care or the lights go out.

What's less clear is whether these folks have thought through this genuinely horrible plan.

To reiterate what we talked about on Friday, there's simply no realistic way Democrats are going to say, "To prevent a government shutdown, we give up -- it took us 100 years of work to get heath care reform done, and it's making a huge difference in the lives of countless American families, but we've decided to trash the whole thing to make the GOP happy." This just isn't going to happen. Even the most unhinged congressional loon must realize, at some level, this is too nutty to take seriously.

And yet, Rubio, Cruz, Lee, and others appear committed to this talking point anyway, and I'm sure right-wing audiences consistently applaud when these senators repeat it.

One of two things is going to happen. Either (a) these Republicans will back down, signaling weakness in advance of their likely national campaigns; or (b) Republicans will shut down the government, insisting that it's Democrats' fault for not taking health care benefits away from millions of Americans.

Either way, this is an exceedingly bad idea. Democrats would love to get a huge national boost in advance of the 2014 midterms -- a ridiculous government shutdown based on radical partisanship ought to do the trick.