After voting 41 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it appears that some congressional Republicans have finally realized that passing legislation to repeal health care reform is a right-wing pipe dream. Unfortunately, conservative groups and their allies in Congress are now pushing an even worse idea: threatening to shut down the government or manufacture another debt-ceiling default crisis in a last-ditch effort to defund Obamacare.
Heading into the fall, Republicans are divided – most visibly over how far they are willing to take the fight against Obamacare. Potential presidential contenders Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are calling on their party to oppose any continuing resolution that does not reject funding for the health care law, even if it results in a government shutdown. Their effort is opposed by establishment Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who have signaled their preference for refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to one-year delay to Obamacare implementation. However, it’s unclear whether Boehner and Cantor will be able to convince their conservative members, as ongoing divisions on a host of legislative issues point to a party in crisis. Making matters even worse, Republicans are under intense pressure from right-wing activists and organizations to defund Obamacare or face the consequences.
If it seems like déjà vu all over again, that’s because this isn’t the first time the Tea Party base has pushed Republicans to recklessly wreak havoc on the economy to get their way. In the past, Republican leaders have readily played along, most notably by threatening to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding and refusing to raise the debt ceiling until Democrats agreed to draconian budget cuts. The result is an expectation on the right that Republicans will use even the most basic responsibilities of governing as leverage to advance their extreme agenda.
Now, it appears that we could be headed toward another unnecessary crisis this fall unless Republican leaders decide to risk the wrath of the right by governing responsibly.