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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The irony is that even if House Republicans ended up forcing a government shutdown, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t be much affected. Like Social Security and Medicare, Obamacare has its own dedicated funding stream that Congress can alter only by amending the law—again requiring the cooperation of both the Senate and White House.

An even greater irony, many have pointed out, is that if Republicans really believed the law will prove a terrible failure, these last-minute theatrics wouldn’t be necessary. Their actual fear is that once the notoriously uninformed American public gets firsthand experience with the Affordable Care Act, they’re going to like it just fine.

How else to explain the deceptive, Koch-funded TV ad campaign that coincides with Cruz’s Last Stand? Are people so gullible that they’re fooled by a horror film scenario featuring a creepy Uncle Sam with a speculum? “Don’t let the government play doctor,” indeed. Does that pleasant grandmotherly cancer victim really not grasp the differences between private health insurance reform and a “government takeover” of medical care?

Maybe so, and maybe not. I’m inclined to suspect that the real objection to Obamacare isn’t so much the law’s contents as its sponsor and its perceived beneficiaries: the undeserving poor.

Veteran political scientist Norm Ornstein recently told The Daily Beast’s Kirsten Powers that “the bizarreness of this monomaniacal focus on Obamacare, given that it is fundamentally a Republican program from the 1990s mixed in with Romneycare,” says it all. “Obamacare relies on the private sector; there is no public option. That you are willing to bring the country to its knees to sabotage it … just shows this is a party that has gone off the rails.”

Meanwhile, establishment Republicans are growing restive. Writing in The Hill, former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) complains that “These are folks who have never governed and are not inclined to do so. Rather, their goals are improved fundraising and, in some cases, individual advancement. They have hit on an issue that plays well on the stump, producing numerous effective one-liners.”

Gregg sees the Cruz/Boehner backup plan of threatening default on the national debt as even crazier, “the political equivalent of playing Russian roulette with all the chambers of the gun loaded…At some point, the debt ceiling will have to be increased not because it is a good idea but because it is the only idea.”

Gregg retired from the Senate in 2010. Back then nobody had ever heard of Ted Cruz. Today, however, win or lose, the Tea Party has found its champion.

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