09.20.2013 0

If Republicans stand firm, Obamacare is toast

ObamaToastBy Robert Romano

One curiosity in the House of Representatives’ new continuing resolution that would defund implementation of the health care law was inclusion of the Full Faith and Credit Act, legislation that guarantees debt service payments will continue in the event the debt ceiling is reached.

As current law stands, should the statutory debt limit be reached, the White House has the option of whether or not to continue to make interest payments and to refinance existing debt up to the limit. This forms the basis of the Obama administration’s threat to default on the debt if Congress fails to increase the borrowing limit, which now stands at $16.699 trillion.

Previously, Americans for Limited Government has advocated that legislation like the Full Faith and Credit Act be added to a continuing resolution, primarily to prepare for a battle over the debt ceiling. Why? Enacting law requiring that debt service payments be made no matter what would effectively take default off the table when it comes to a fight over the debt limit, thus strengthening the House’s hand.

While purely speculative, this might be why House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor want to include it. It might also explain why Slate.com’s David Weigel was reporting on Sept. 18 that the House Republican strategy was to abandon the defund continuing resolution in favor of a delay Obamacare debt ceiling increase.

Here’s what they might be thinking: The Senate and the White House want the defund Obamacare language stripped out of the CR, so Boehner and Cantor will agree to do so and present a watered-down version to members, but not agree to take out the Full Faith and Credit language.

Boehner and Cantor might say the language is innocuous, because it guarantees that our bills will be paid. Rejection of the Full Faith and Credit continuing resolution by Obama would be tantamount to him demanding that he retain the option to default on the debt should the ceiling be reached.

So, if the CR that passes includes the Full Faith and Credit Act, that would in principle take the threat of default off the table in the upcoming debt ceiling fight, enabling it to be used as effective leverage in either defunding or delaying implementation of Obamacare.

But there’s one big problem.

Harry Reid will never let that happen. Most likely, he will do precisely what he did with Cut, Cap, and Balance — a plan to cut spending, establish statutory spending caps, and require passage of a constitutional balanced budget amendment in return for increasing the debt ceiling — in July 2011. He will table it in a vote that only requires a simple majority, effectively killing the gambit.

Then what? There is simply no way Reid will give Republicans the Full Faith and Credit Act for free.  Therefore, the House will still lack any real leverage on the debt ceiling. Everyone already knows House leadership is unwilling to risk Obama defaulting on the $16.7 trillion national debt should the borrowing limit be reached.

Meaning, if the House abandons the continuing resolution defund strategy, they will be left without any other tools in their arsenal. No defund. No delay. Nothing. Obamacare will go into effect — and it will become permanent.

Leaving but one option for House Republicans, which is to use the continuing resolution to defund Obamacare. If Reid and Obama reject that approach, if they refuse to fund the government except for Obamacare, it is they who will be shutting down the government.

The fact is, every roll call in the House will show Republicans voting to fund the government. And every roll call in the Senate will show Democrats voting against it. Who shut down the government then?

Besides, essential government functions, including the military, border patrol, law enforcement, the Federal Aviation Administration, Social Security and Medicare payments, and so forth would continue. Only non-essential employees would be cut.

So be it. If federal employees want to get back to work, they can call Harry Reid. With so many functions deemed essential, it is not even clear if the American people would notice the government was shut down.

In the meantime, there is simply no reason for Republicans to pass a continuing resolution that allows funding for Obamacare to go into effect. This is the only way to stop it.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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