Both the House and Senate have passed budget resolutions, which would ordinarily mean the two sides would begin the process of trying to find a compromise in something called a conference committee. But that's not happening -- Republicans have spent the last few months refusing to have negotiations.
With that in mind, Congress will soon need a need a temporary spending measure -- a "continuing resolution" -- to keep the government's lights on until something can be worked out. Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he'll oppose any stopgap measure unless Democrats agree to a spending bill that "defunds Obamacare." In other words, Rubio would prefer a government shutdown to a functioning federal health care system.
It's impossible to take demands like these seriously, but the argument is apparently catching on.
Growing numbers of Republicans in Congress are setting their sights on a new target in looming fiscal showdowns this autumn over government funding and the debt limit: "Obamacare."Several Republicans are pledging to oppose a stopgap government spending bill that will be needed by October 1 unless it withholds funds from the implementation of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law -- especially its core requirement that uninsured Americans obtain health coverage.
The core requirement that uninsured Americans obtain health coverage, by the way, was a Republican idea.
Anyway, this argument is apparently en vogue on the far-right -- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Iowa) traveled to Iowa this week, where he said he'll also oppose funding unless the Affordable Care Act is "fully" defunded.
If Democrats are really lucky, Cruz and Rubio will convince other Republicans to join in on this.
Look, there's obviously 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 realizes this is unrealistic.
And yet, Rubio, Cruz, and others appear committed to this talking point anyway, and I'm sure right-wing audiences consistently applaud when they 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 tens of 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.