The Dirty CR

So even as the rest of us are still trying to digest Eric Cantor’s new “defund Obamacare” appropriations proposal, the conservative activists who are its intended audience are already denouncing it as a godless conspiracy. Here’s Erick Erickson:

Eric Cantor is always looking for new and imaginative ways to screw conservatives. He has Pete Sessions (R-TX), as Rules Chairman, helping him with his latest creative way to screw conservatives….

Let me break down their plan for you. House leadership will pass a continuing resolution in the House. It will fund Obamacare. Cantor and Sessions will also make sure a separate resolution to defund Obamacare gets passed that would amend the CR to defund Obamacare if the Senate votes for it, which they of course will not. These two separate votes will be combined with great fan fare to make it look like House Republicans are voting for a CR that defunds Obamacare. But the Senate will pass the CR that funds Obamacare, sending it to the President, and ignore the defund resolution.

Obamacare will be fully funded, but the GOP will get to tell its voters that it supported defunding Obamacare. Yes, they did. But only because they rigged the defunding effort to fail. This is a head pat to conservatives designed to screw them and the nation at a time more and more Americans are seeing employers shove them to part time work, cutting spousal benefits, or refusing insurance altogether because of Obamacare.

Keep in mind that Cantor and company are resorting to this ploy in order to avoid succumbing to conservative demands for dragging the whole country to the bottom of hell in order to stop implementation of the Heritage Foundation/Mitt Romney health plan that has somehow become an instrument of totalitarianism that will also ruin the U.S. economy. (Just thought I’d mention that, because we sometimes forget where “Obamacare” came from). But it’s clearly not going to work, unless it’s with low-information conservatives who confuse symbolic ranting and shrieking with the actual enactment of laws.

But if the House goes ahead with this maneuver, that doesn’t mean a “victory” for the administration or congressional Democrats because the “CR that funds Obamacare” (to use Erickson’s term) isn’t actually “clean”–i.e., a pure instrument of status quo policy. As Brian Beutler explains at Salon today, it adopts a funding baseline that includes 100% of next year’s scheduled sequestration for non-defense spending, and only 60% of the sequester for defense spending. So it incorporates a thumb-on-the-scale for defense if a separate deal canceling the sequester is secured, and significantly lower ($21 billion) spending if the sequester goes ahead.

Perhaps progressives can temporarily join hands with the Erick Ericksons of the world in a very limited effort to denounce the “clean” nature of the House GOP’s appropriations offer. From any perspective, it’s dirty.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.