Speaker John Boehner huddled with House Republicans this morning at the Capitol. According to several sources in the closed-door meeting, the speaker confirmed his plan to bring a continuing resolution to the floor that funds the government and defunds Obamacare.Apparently, the House GOP's idea is that after House Republican pass Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's "defund Obamacare" scheme, it will take the issue off their plate and put it in the hands of Cruz and his colleagues, creating a put up or shut up moment for them. According to this line of thought, House Republican leadership can't be held responsible for the failure of Cruz's doomed plan because unless Cruz is able to move the legislation through the Senate—which he can't, because Democrats control the Senate, and not all Republicans agree with him—then Cruz will own the failure of his own plan.
“On the CR, we know what the position of this conference is,” Boehner said, speaking before his colleagues. “Every member in this room is for defunding Obamacare while letting the rest of the government continue to operate. We’re going to put Obamacare defunding directly into the CR. And then we’re going to send it over to the Senate, so our conservative allies over there can continue the fight. That’s where the fight is.”
“On every major issue we’ve faced for the past two and a half years, the math has been the same: House Republicans either find a way together to get to 218, or the Democrats who run the rest of Washington essentially get everything they want,” he added, pressing for House GOP unity.
That all seems fairly logical, albeit against a backdrop of utter insanity. This isn't a defense of Speaker Boehner, but it's absurd to blame him for the fact that he can't repeal or defund Obamacare by threatening a government shutdown. The fact is that nobody can do it. So if Boehner's goal is to prove to lunatic conservatives that he's not the reason Obamacare is here to stay, this isn't a bad plan.
That being said, this plan has nothing to do with actually avoiding a government shutdown—it's entirely about avoiding blame. Watching it unfold is entertaining in a sick sort of way, but other than being another reason why this is the least popular Congress in American history, it's really just a sideshow. Follow below the fold to see why this development, as crazy as it is, might not be the worst thing in the world.
If there's any good news here it's that this means the House is finally going to pass some sort of spending bill, which means the Senate will finally be able to send something back. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday, the Senate has no "Plan B" if the House were to fail to act. That's because spending and revenue bills must originate in the House, so getting something—anything—out of Boehner's building is a necessary first step, even if it is a bill containing Cruz's ridiculous defund Obamacare scheme.
Ironically, it might actually be a good thing (from the perspective of Democrats) if the House ends up passing the Cruz scheme instead of Boehner's original plan. That's because Boehner's original plan—which was for Republicans to break the 2011 budget deal by essentially making sequester spending levels permanent while throwing in a kickback to defense contractors—would have been less transparently ridiculous, and therefore harder to to argue against, despite being nearly as objectionable.
Cruz's plan is absurd on its face, though, and as long as it's the GOP's plan of record, it's clear to everyone that their plan of record is DOA. It might be a good enough "Plan B" to get something out of the House, but the real "Plan B" to prevent a shutdown is going to come from the Senate, and in all likelihood it's going to be the simplest plan in the world: a clean continuing resolution to fund government without forcing anyone to swallow new poison pills. In other words, it will be a plan to prevent a government shutdown ... by keeping the government open. Crazy, huh?