Linda Norman, right, and Joanna Galt, both from Florida, hold their banners during a "Exempt America from Obamacare" rally on the West Lawn of the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Updated: October 15, 2013 7:05AM
ObamaCare is the law of the land and coming on fast. Conservative Republicans will only shoot themselves in the foot if they shut down the whole federal government — as they threaten to do — in a petulant last-ditch effort to kill it.
It’s way past time they gave it a rest.
In 2010, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, now nicknamed ObamaCare. But as the law nears fuller implementation, Tea Party Republicans are threatening to either shut down the government at the end of the month or risk sending the nation into default in mid-October unless the law is de-funded, delayed or rescinded.
On Thursday, the U.S. House threw up a new roadblock by approving a bill requiring a more stringent verification system before subsidies are made available to help people buy health insurance. It was the 41st attempt by House Republicans to repeal, de-fund or change ObamaCare since it was enacted. Because the subsidies are a key element of ObamaCare, the bill has no chance in the Democrat-controlled Senate, but that isn’t deterring the law’s opponents. And two looming fiscal deadlines are offering them chances to hold the government hostage.
The first deadline ObamaCare opponents can use to throw a monkey wrench into the government’s machinery will come at the end of the month, when Washington will begin to shut down unless Congress approves a continuing resolution to fund operations after the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Mindful of how a 1995-96 shutdown backfired politically on Republicans and helped then-President Bill Clinton, GOP congressional leaders are trying to avoid this battle. But on Wednesday, the leaders had to delay a vote on funding government because of a revolt by Tea Party conservatives. The House is scheduled to be in recess the week of Sept. 23, but even if that vacation break is canceled there’s not much time for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to persuade the GOP caucus to drop this skirmish.
The second deadline — the one over which Boehner has vowed a “whale of a fight” — comes in mid-October, when Congress will need to approve an increase in the Treasury’s borrowing limit, allowing it to pay obligations the government already has incurred on such things as Social Security payments and interest on the national debt. Boehner has said Republicans will insist on spending cuts before OKing an increase in the debt limit, but it could lead to a standoff similar to one in 2011. If no solution is found, the nation could default on its debt.
We’re past the point when lawmakers should be threatening a government shutdown over health-care reform. ObamaCare is the law of the land and has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Enrollment for the state insurance exchanges that are part of the Affordable Care Act launches on Oct. 1. As Bill Clinton said, “Whether we support it or oppose the health-care reform law, whether we like it or don’t, we’d all be better off working together to make it work as well as possible, to identify the problems and to fix it.”
Implementing a new health-care system for an entire nation is a mammoth task, and even the most ardent ObamaCare supporters are expecting glitches. But early signs indicate the law already is helping slow increases in health-care costs, leading to suspicions that conservatives’ real worry is that if they don’t block the law now, it will be come too popular to dislodge in the future.
In civics classes around the country, teachers are trying to instruct young people about what it takes to be good citizens. Watching ObamaCare opponents spread misinformation and threaten to impair the functioning of government because they aren’t getting their way does not teach the right lesson.