As the nation heads towards a government shutdown and defaulting on its debts, the two battling sides cannot even agree which election they are fighting. Republican presidential hopefuls are jostling for position ahead of the 2016 primaries while President Obama has his eyes on the midterms next year. Both sides insist they will not compromise; yet both sides cannot win.
The president’s blink over Syria has encouraged the GOP. His failure to act resolutely and stand by his promise to punish Bashar al-Assad for gassing his own people suggests that when he declared over the debt ceiling, “I will not negotiate over whether or not America keeps its word and meets its obligations. I will not negotiate over the full faith and credit of the United States,” he may have been bluffing, just like when he said about Syria, “A red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
The Republicans who hope to launch their presidential bids by tapping into the energy of the Tea Party, currently obsessing about killing the Affordable Care Act by defunding it, are prepared to call the president’s bluff. For Senator Marco Rubio, whose reputation among Tea Partiers was dimmed by his attempts to broker immigration reform, the debt ceiling showdown at the end of the month is the perfect way to strangle Obamacare before it comes into full force. “I’m in favor of funding the government at the levels that were agreed to last year in the Budget Control Act and not spending a single penny more of hardworking taxpayer dollars on a disaster, which is Obamacare,” he said.
Rubio’s rivals sing from an identical hymn sheet. This is Senator Ted Cruz’s rendition of the “single penny” line: “Under no circumstances will I vote for a continuing resolution that funds even one single penny of Obamacare.” He is under the illusion the president, given the chance, will welcome the chance to abandon his healthcare reforms, which takes a lot of swallowing. As they enter their second term, presidents tend to be preoccupied with protecting their legacy. Perhaps Mr. Cruz thinks that when the president declared, “The law I passed is here to stay,” he had his fingers crossed behind his back, just as he did over the Syrian red line.
Here is Senator Ron Paul explaining his populist reasons for backing the defunding of Obamacare: “Everywhere I go, people say, ‘Defund Obamacare,’ and so that’s where I am.” To give him his due, he knows threatening to defund Obamacare is just a gambit. “We were elected to represent the people who said defund Obamacare. So I think we should represent them,” he explained. It’s not exactly a principled stand, but he knows, like his rivals, that to win the nomination for 2016 he will need to appear to have tried to defund Obamacare whether it works out or not.