Newt Gingrich’s speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference yesterday was Important with a capital “I” for a reason noted by almost none of the reporters present.
The speech marked the point at which an idea that has been floating in the blogosphere and on talk radio jumped the talk/politics barrier to be endorsed by someone aspiring to national office.
The text of Gingrich’s speech is not yet available online, so I cant link or quote exactly, but if I heard him right on C-Span radio, he proposed that a Republican majority Congress refuse to appropriate the funds required for the newly enacted healthcare plan.
In other words: follow a 1994 style Republican takeover with a 1995 style government shutdown. It worked the last time!
I find it hard to imagine that Republicans would actually put such a plan into action, although of course you never know. Will they really refuse to appropriate the money so that seniors – who will have been paying nothing for routine doctors’ visits in the months before January 2011 – will resume paying? WIll they halt the scheduled staged elimination of the “doughnut hole” from Medicare Part D? Seems unlikely. And if they do, they will have set the country up for a constitutional and budgetary crisis that can only end in abject and embarrassing Republican defeat.
But even if they do none of these things, the “defund” idea is harmful, and here is why:
Like the “repeal” slogan before it, the “defund” slogan substitutes for any attempt to think through HOW Republicans will fix the flaws in Obamacare if they have the chance.
HOW will we prevent the pre-programmed Obama tax increases on investment income and payrolls from going into effect?
HOW will we protect the states from the huge unfunded mandate that is Medicaid expansion?
HOW will we rollback the destructive wave of over-regulation within the mandates that the administration is now empowered to impose?
These are problems that we should be thinking about now. If we gain majorities in November, we should be ready to act in January. By deluding ourselves with grandiose but empty slogans in the spring, we guarantee that we will arrive in the majority – if we do – utterly unprepared for the real world problems embedded in a serious project to redress the wrongs done by Obamacare.
Those of us who favored some kind of healthcare compromise get called all kinds of unpleasant names in intra-Republican debates. We might as well be cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Yet it’s the people who are talking biggest who are really showing the way to surrender: because the unreality of their fantasies of total resistance implies an eventual actual policy of total acceptance.