Remember Diogenes, the Greek philosopher who carried a lantern in daylight as he walked the streets of ancient Athens in search of an honest man? His frustration would be multiplied if he roamed the halls of Congress. A prophylactic dose of cynicism would be necessary before trying to divine the intentions of slippery politicians depicted as paragons of virtue.
Consider Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, whose convoluted scheme to defund the Affordable Care Act is so poorly devised that it may have been proposed primarily to provide the politically ambitious duo with all the media attention they have enjoyed in recent weeks.
Cruz and Lee persuaded their tea-party-steeped peers in the House to pass a bill to fund all government operations except further implementation of the ACA starting Oct. 1. But they are being disingenuous in that much of the spending for Obamacare, as with Medicare and Social Security, cannot be stopped.
The House bill is unlikely to survive in the Senate as written, and President Obama is certain to veto it if it somehow does. So what do Cruz and Lee have to gain from pushing their proposal other than name recognition that might help them seek national office in 2016?
Now that the House has passed the bill, Cruz is urging his Senate brethren to use the filibuster to prevent the Democratic majority from approving Obamacare funding. “If Senate Republicans stay strong and hold true,” Cruz wrote in an article for RealClearPolitics, “we will force Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to … keep the government open or shut it down in the name of funding a glitch-riddled health-care takeover.”
It’s either blind ambition or just blindness that keeps Cruz and Lee from seeing what is obvious to Republicans with more mileage on their odometers: the prospect of a repeat of 1996, when Republicans shut down the government and voters responded by reelecting Bill Clinton.
New polls show that Americans overwhelmingly oppose defunding Obamacare at the cost of a government shutdown. But that could happen if Congress can’t pass a continuing budget resolution by Oct. 1.
Cruz says the House should not give in even if Senate Democrats add Obamacare funding to the bill and send it back to the lower chamber. He says the House should then pass separate bills to fund different parts of government but not the ACA.
Cruz maintains that he only wants to protect Americans from Obamacare, which he says is “hurting almost every sector of the economy.” That’s quite an accomplishment for a program that has yet to be implemented — and which can be revised as needed after it’s been cranked up.
The dangerous steps toward a shutdown that Cruz and his cabal are willing to take, either now or when the debate turns to raising the debt ceiling, have more to do with enhancing their status among the tea-party faithful than with making health care affordable and accessible.