In January, I quibbled with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s word choice, so it is only fair I praise him for a strong showing on NBC’s Meet the Press this weekend. When asked about Obamacare, the potential 2016 contender was unequivocal: “I think we should be fighting to defund it.”
Those comments stand in stark contrast to those of Republican leaders in Washington, a point host David Gregory looked to exploit:
“On Obamacare, you even have the speaker of the House [John Boehner] saying, ‘The president's not going to lose his signature achievement.’ That efforts to defund Obamacare, even to threaten a government shutdown, simply are not going to work.”
In what appeared to be a brush back pitch aimed squarely at congressional Republicans, Jindal responded “I don't know why we would negotiate with ourselves.” After laying out a succinct and compelling case against Obamacare, Jindal returned to his initial point:
“So I don't know why we would take any option off the table. I don't think this president or the Democrats are going to want to shut down the government. That's a false choice. That's a threat coming from them. I think Republicans should use every tactic, every option we can to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
Jindal did not back down when Gregory pressed him on the shutdown nonsense:
“Again, look, I think this is a false threat from the other side. I don't think you have to shut down the government to repeal and replace Obamacare. But I don't think Republicans should be taking options off the table. I think we should be fighting to defund it. The reality is-- is that let's have that debate. I don't think Republicans should be negotiating with ourselves and saying, ‘We're not going to do this, we're not going to do that.’ Let's look at every option and get rid of Obamacare.”
Unfortunately, it looks like Republicans in Washington are determined to take options off the table while they negotiate with themselves. Earlier this month, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) explained it was simply about math:
“To get 60 votes in the Senate, you need at least 14 Democrats to join Republicans and pass a CR that defunds Obamacare. Right now, I am not aware of a single Democrat in the Senate who would join us. If and when defunding has 60 votes in the Senate, we will absolutely deliver more than 218 votes in the House.”
This intense interest in the partisan affiliation of Senators is a relatively new phenomenon.
In 2011, House Republicans didn’t ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for a whip count or Barack Obama which pen he’d wield. Instead, they passed a spending bill that President Obama said contained “deep cuts that will undermine our ability to out-educate, out-build, and out-innovate the rest of the world.”
As the months ticked by, House Republicans began winning the public debate, which led to actual legislative victories. Those legislative victories, while small, were made possible because House Republicans didn’t negotiate with themselves. They didn’t take options off the table. Instead, they were fighting to uphold the mandate given to them by the American people.
If Republicans want to have a real debate over Obamacare – and they absolutely should – another raft of symbolic votes is unlikely to advance the national dialogue. Concrete and determined action will, though.
Throughout August, pro-Obamacare groups have followed Heritage Action around the country. Those groups have been attempting to rally support – a dozen people here, a couple dozen there – for Obamacare this August. Meanwhile, Heritage Action, along with the Heritage Foundation, Rafael Cruz and other conservatives, has served as a catalyst for anti-Obamacare events and rallies across the country.
A battle over this unworkable, unaffordable and increasingly unpopular law is waging. The only question is whether House Republicans will ask Harry Reid’s permission before they come to the aid of the American people.