As Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) discovered back in July, even a government shutdown will not prevent the implementation of ObamaCare. The Democratic Policy & Communications Center has compiled a list of 20 Republican senators who have gone on the record acknowledging that they can’t prevent the implementation of ObamaCare either legislatively or through a government shutdown. These comments vary from Sen. Richard Burr’s take, “The dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” to Sen. Jim Risch’s “It is as impossible as anything can possibly be in Washington, D.C.”

However, I do not know how to square Ramesh Ponnuru’s assurances that Boehner and Cantor are intent on passing a clean CR with Tim Alberta’s piece in the National Journal that argues that Boehner has a secret plan to actually beat the Democrats and delay the implementation of ObamaCare for a year.

Here’s Ponnuru:

Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are just as convinced as ever that a partial government shutdown would not advance any conservative goal, and just as determined to avoid one. They have merely made a tactical retreat in that effort. They want to pass a continuing resolution that denies funding to Obamacare, thus demonstrating that it’s the outcome House Republicans favor. If, as expected, the Senate defeats it, they then want to pass another continuing resolution that leaves Obamacare alone: Shutdown avoided.

Here’s Alberta:

The Republican plan, molded by leadership and some top conservatives, presupposes two things: First, the House passes a CR that funds the government through mid-December while permanently defunding Obamacare (North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, among others, expects an “overwhelming” victory on the House floor Friday); and second, the Senate promptly strips the anti-Obamacare language and sends back to the House a “clean” CR (Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the Republican ringleader of the anti-Obamacare drive, acknowledged Wednesday that the GOP proposal stands little chance in the Senate.)

If all goes according to plan on these two fronts, the ball will be back in the House’s court, and the threat of shutdown will be less than a week away. House Republicans, it has been assumed, will have two choices at that point: Either instruct leadership to hold their ground and send another anti-Obamacare CR to the Senate; or acknowledge their lack of leverage and pass the clean CR, hoping for another opportunity to fight Obamacare soon thereafter.

But, sources familiar with the planning say Boehner is preparing a third option, one that keeps the government open at post-sequester spending levels while not conceding defeat on Obamacare. To accomplish this, the Republican leadership is planning to propose a debt-ceiling package — perhaps as early as next week — that has as its centerpiece a one-year delay of President Obama’s health care law.

I guess these two predictions don’t totally contradict each other, since Mr. Ponnuru didn’t say what Boehner and Cantor intend to do on the debt ceiling. If Mr. Alberta is correct, they will try to stare down the president who has been as clear as a bell that he will not negotiate again on the debt ceiling.

In any case, with 20 Republican senators on the record as saying that a government shutdown won’t stop ObamaCare or is just a bad idea, I don’t think the cloture vote in the Senate is going to be a problem.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at