Don’t Forget the Great White Whale!

Under the most common scenario for what happens next on the fiscal front in Congress, Republicans can keep conservatives happy by providing a new continuing resolution (before the temporary one runs out on March 27) that incorporates the spending levels set by the sequester (with or without a selective plus-up for the Pentagon), then finesse the debt limit when it runs out, and then it’s off to the midterm elections! This plan depends on not doing anything likely to provoke a failure of the appropriations process–via an irresolvable fight with the Senate or a presidential veto–and then a government shutdown. The President improved odds of a relatively smooth process today by hinting pretty broadly that he’d go along with sequester levels of funding if the only alternative is a shutdown.

But now, just when it looked like John Boehner had satisfied restive Tea Party types with his no-negotiations posture on the sequester, a new (or rather, an old but renewed) demand is arising from the Right: kill all funds used to implement Obamacare! Here’s Erick Erickson, who may be trying to keep his wingnut street cred intact after suggesting the other day that conservatives needed to pay more attention to actual facts happening in the real world:

Next week, the House will be voting on the CR to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. This is our last best chance to defund this thing and ensure it never takes root. There’s nothing more important to force a fight over than Obamacare. The fight over the sequester is already over. Take yes for an answer and move on.

Unlike some of the frauds in Congress these days and some real conservatives who have lost their testicular fortitude to fight, Reps. Jim Bridenstine (OK) and Tim Huelskamp (KS) actually take their campaign pledges seriously. They actually understand we are in a pitched battle for the future of the country, and they know the stakes of losing that battle. They have circulated a letter calling on Boehner to block all funding for Obamacare in the CR.

It’s interesting that Erickson frames this battle-cry not as something he’s asking congressional Republicans to do, but as a shout of rage at a betrayal he considers already underway:

In fact, House conservatives, not just the general rank and file Republicans, appear set to endorse Obamacare and approve its funding. Yes, even former Republican Study Committee (“RSC”) Chairmen Jeb Hensarling, Tom Price, and Jim Jordan along with present RSC Chairman Steve Scalise will do so….

Republicans promised to defund Obamacare. They lied. Now we are at the end of the rope. If we don’t engage in a fight to the death over funding for Obamacare, it will forever be enshrined in the welfare state; it will forever relegate us to lethargic growth; it will forever make private healthcare unaffordable.

No – this is not one of those issues we shrug off and surrender due to an election. This is a fight we cannot lose because a majority of Americans still oppose Obamacare. This is a fight we must not lose or we’ll be talking in 20 years from now how to muster the courage to implement minuscule reforms to this behemoth, the same way we are talking now about Medicare.

Ol’ Erick doesn’t spell out the implication that if past conservatives had never let Medicare breathe its first breath, they wouldn’t have to lie and pretend they adore that satanic program now. But never mind.

Erickson’s not alone in getting the troops all riled up for a gotterdamerung on this issue: Heritage Action is on board, and of course, out there in front is Steve King.

The defund-Obamacare demand, if accepted by congressional GOPers would, of course, make a government shutdown a certainty, no matter how sweet a deal the White House or congressional Democrats are willing to otherwise offer to get to the end of the year. It will be interesting to see whether this campaign to call conservatives traitors and RINOs if they don’t go in this direction gets traction, or people like Erickson suddenly find something else to shriek about.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.