OPINION: Shutdown threat does GOP no favors
By Grand Forks Herald
It's true that "all bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives," as the Constitution declares.
But it's also true that the declaration doesn't end there. Instead, it concludes this way: " ... but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other bills."
In short, the House gets the first word on spending -- but not the last word.
And that's a big reason why the hard-right strategy to defund Obamacare by threatening to shut down the government won't work.
Republicans should reject the strategy, as Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and many others already have done.
Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, are among those who've vowed to reject all budget resolutions that include money for Obamacare. If the GOP majority in the House goes along, then rock of the majority's principles will meet the hard place of a Sept. 30 deadline, after which the government will lack the money it needs to operate.
The strategy is based in large part on the constitutional provision mentioned above. As Daniel Horowitz of the conservative RedState blog writes, "all spending bills must originate in the House -- the body that is controlled by Republicans.
"They need to pass a bill funding the government sans Obamacare. It is up to the Senate whether they want to force a shutdown over an unpopular law."
Horowitz goes on to quote Federalist 58, in which James Madison declared, "this power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people."
But Horowitz and others overstate their case, savvier Republican strategists note.
Because in fact, it's not "up to the Senate" whether to force a shutdown. That's because the Democratic majority in the Senate simply can pass an amended budget that includes Obamacare and send it back to the House, exactly as the Constitution provides.
At that point, the situation would be this: The president and the Senate would have proven themselves willing to fund the government -- all of the government, including Obamacare, the duly passed law of the land.
House Republicans would be left to insist they get to have their way or else -- and "their way" includes the demand that the president, who triumphed over an anti-Obamacare Republican in 2012, defund his own signature policy.
Which way do you think public opinion would break?
Of course, we have a pretty good idea of which way it would break, because when a government shutdown took place in 1995-96, the GOP lost big. President Bill Clinton rode the issue to re-election: "The government shutdown is what revived his political fortunes, in part because Republicans appeared too eager for a confrontation, while Clinton constantly emphasized his willingness to compromise within reason," the Washington Post recounted.
Obamacare passed without any Republican support and remains much less popular than other entitlements. Serious problems with its implementation already are arising, too.
In other words, the program's history already is different than that of, say, Social Security or Medicare. It may never win the bedrock support those programs enjoy.
That means the way remains open for a Republican Congress and Republican president to "repeal and replace." But first, the party has to win both the Senate and the White House -- and it won't do that by kowtowing to its extremes.