Another battle over the debt ceiling is looming. Around October of this year, the government will reach the limit imposed on the debt ceiling, and it will need to be raised once again (in spite of the fact that the budget deficit is falling dramatically). And the Republicans in Congress are already talking about another showdown.
This time they plan to go for the gold. Instead of just demanding general cuts to the budget, they want to demand that all the funding for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) be be deleted from the federal budget, in return for their approval to raise the debt ceiling. In other words, they are willing to shut down the government and further damage the credit rating of the government to get what they want -- the death of Obamacare.
This should not surprise anyone. Last week the GOP-dominated House voted to abolish Obamacare for the 38th time since it was passed. But they know that silly bill has no chance of being approved in the Senate or by the White House (just like the previous 37 times). But they feel they have a real opportunity to deal Obamacare a mortal blow in the upcoming debt ceiling debate.
Why would the Republicans do this? Because they know that once Obamacare has been fully implemented, the people will realize that it is not the draconian system the Republicans have tried to paint it as being -- that it is a real improvement over what existed before. And once the people realize that, they will never stand for it being repealed.
Already, people are no longer being denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, many more people between 21 and 26 are covered by insurance (through their parent's plans), women are receiving free contraceptives from their insurance companies, many states are making plans to cover millions more people through Medicaid expansion, and insurance premiums are dropping (New York will see premiums drop by as much as 50% next year).
The Republicans know that time is running out for them, and if they can't kill Obamacare soon they will never be able to do it. So they are going to make what may be their last stand, when the debt ceiling needs to be raised again.
I think it will be a futile effort, and will just result in more bad publicity for the GOP. The Senate Democrats will never approve the defunding of Obamacare, and if they did the president would veto it. The Republicans may think they can force the Democrats to back down to avoid shutting the government down, but in the end, I suspect it will be the Republicans who will have to back down -- since the president and the Democrats will never give in on Obamacare. And the people will know it was the Republicans forcing the government to shut down.
Personally, I think the Republicans are playing a very dangerous game. Americans already have an extremely low opinion of Congress because of the gridlock -- and forcing the shutdown of the government will just anger more Americans. And it will do it as the next electoral cycle approaches.
Will the Republicans follow through on this threat? Will they have the guts to shut the government down as we approach the 2014 electoral season -- on an issue they cannot win on? It's still a couple of months away, but it will be interesting to see what happens.