With the government on the verge of shutting down, House Republicans are repeatedly asked why they're stubbornly pushing to block Obamacare through an urgent spending bill when it's obvious to everyone that Senate Democrats will reject it out of hand.
Except the political reality of how far Senate Democrats and President Obama can be pushed on the Affordable Care Act — and other matters — is hardly obvious to a House Republican caucus that includes large freshman and sophomore classes that lack the kind of political foresight that comes with experience. It's possible that same lack of foresight is blinding them the political risks of how a government shutdown fight is likely to play out on the national stage.
Combined with Republican zeal for an epic showdown over Obamacare, those factors leave House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, few options but to treat this episode as a teachable moment. He can steer his young majority -- about 100 of the 233 Republicans in the House were elected in 2010 and 2012 -- in a more politically advantageous direction once they learn for themselves the limits on what could be achieved.
“Just because one side says we’re never going to support it, does that mean we don’t try? We could say we’ll never support what you do. Should they not try? We just have to keep throwing it out there,” freshman Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., told the Washington Examiner on Saturday. “Maybe there’s a little more idealism amongst these last two generations of 2010’ers and 2012’ers. I don’t fault anybody whose been here longer than that, it’s more a deal of, gosh, our public — when we go back home — expects us to try.”
Privately, House Republican sources say LaMalfa’s view that lawmakers should try to advance their agenda without concern for the political endgame reflects the sentiments of many of the younger GOP members, particularly as it relates to Obamacare. And that's as much of a factor in their decision making as any philosophical inflexibility.
After being rebuked by a Democratic Senate on their efforts to defund Obamacare, House Republicans very early Sunday approved a new funding bill that would prevent a government shutdown on Tuesday but delay implementation of Obamacare for a year and eliminate a medical device tax the law includes.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., issued a statement Saturday saying that the new House proposal is dead on arrival in the Democratic chamber.
There's no guarantee that House Republicans who want to defund or delay Obamacare will stand down once the latest House proposal is rejected by the Senate. They could make a third attack on the law. It also is unclear whether lawmakers would be able to strike a final deal in time to avoid a politically risky shutdown.
Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., said House Republican leaders have been trying to educate less experienced members on the rhythms of the legislative and negotiating process. They're learning more with experience and as the stakes grow higher, he said.
“I think the speaker is not losing teachable moments for us that are freshman and sophomores, and I think that helps our conference down the road,” Southerland said.