Minnesota GOP insiders worry about U.S. House strategy to defund Obamacare

Vin Weber: “The mistake is that Republicans have asked for something he cannot possibly give them.”

A torrent of criticism met the Republican resolution in the U.S. House to link defunding of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with funding for a federal budget and raising the debt ceiling.

Not all of those disparaging remarks are coming from Democrats.

“The dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” was the opinion of Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. The Wall Street Journal editorial board likened the resolution to a “kamikaze mission.”

Republican consultants and message maestros in Minnesota tend to concur.

“If this is just yet another tactic to remind people that they don’t like Obamacare, it’s acceptable,” said former Congressman Vin Weber, managing partner of Clark and Weinstock, a public policy consulting group in Washington, D.C. “If it actually leads to a shutdown of government and a failure to raise debt limit, it’s disastrous.”

Michael Brodkorb, author of the blog politics.mn, doesn’t even give credit to the resolution as a tactical maneuver. “After doing something 42 times, it’s going to lose effect,” he said referring the GOP-controlled House resolutions to repeal the health care law. “The strategy of doing it over and over and expecting the outcome to change is an exercise in futility.”

‘Not going to happen’

Ben Golnik, director of the political action committee Minnesota Jobs Coalition, said that given the concerns about Obamacare, “there is an opportunity to make political hay out of this.” But, he added, “at this stage you are not going to undo Obamacare. The reality is, it’s not going happen.”

That is what worries Weber, a former U.S. House member from Minnesota, who says the strategy lacks an exit plan. Furthermore, he said, Republicans can and should make a deal with the White House on spending.

“I think the president is wrong that he won’t negotiate. We negotiate over this stuff all the time, all the time,” he said. “The mistake is that Republicans have asked for something he cannot possibly give them.”

He added that Republicans have options when it comes to making deals on deficit reduction by offering proposals that Obama could accept, like adjusting the consumer price index to determine Social Security benefits.

Local Republican observers say the Affordable Care Act is flawed, and many Americans share their skepticism. Steven Schier, professor of political science at Carleton College in Northfield, notes that in many public opinion polls, a majority of respondents want changes, “but overturning it is a minority opinion and that’s where the risk is for the GOP.”

Among GOP politicians, who could take on this risk and come out ahead? “If you’re someone who is worried about being challenged from the right, it’s something you look at,” said Golnik. “If you’re Ted Cruz looking to run for president and firing up the base — for him it makes a lot of sense politically.”   

Schier concurs that the audience for the threat of a government shutdown and the demand to destroy Obamacare is the activists of the Republican Party. And that, he said, is self-destructive. “At this point, the 30 to 40 most conservative members of Congress are determining the strategy for the party,” he said.

Brodkorb would advise a different approach for House Republicans: “Concentrate on overhauling substantial portions of the bill — that might be a better use of their resources.”

That’s the message GOP uber-consultant Karl Rove has been sending in his multiple statements on the subject. “They can attempt to repeal parts of ObamaCare or seriously alter some of its provisions, as the House GOP did when it pressed the issue of delaying the individual mandate when the Obama administration delayed the employer mandate,” Rove wrote in his column for Fox News.

GOP strategy on MNsure

Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature have taken that tack to register their opposition to MNsure, the state’s program to implement Obamacare.  They’re trying to gain the upper hand by pointing out flaws in the program’s security, outreach and accountability and promising to act as watchdogs.

That’s a stronger position to defend during the 2014 elections than a government shutdown, said Brodkorb. Schier added: “If we do have a government shutdown or if there is economic tumult as a consequence of the debt limit expiring, those activities will be evaluated more than usual.”

But when it comes to changing GOP election outcomes, Weber isn’t as convinced. “I don’t think it ends up costing them much [in 2014],” he said. “It’s hard to convince people Washington has screwed something up because people have factored that into their thinking.”

But Schier said the Republican Party shouldn’t count on a voter shrug of the shoulders. “The Republican Party has a significant reputation problem.  It’s one of those times when the public is paying attention,” he said. “If we get an economic convulsion people will understand right away.”

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/24/2013 - 11:53 am.

    Interesting view

    “The strategy of doing it over and over and expecting the outcome to change is an exercise in futility.” Putting aside my surprise than anyone would pay much attention to Mr. Brodkorb, it seems fair to point out that doing the same thing repeatedly, especially after it has failed, and expecting a different result nonetheless, is also a widely-accepted definition of stupidity.

    Mr. Weber, who often approximates a voice of reason amid the current Republican terrorist mode, nonetheless seems incorrect to me when he says “I think the president is wrong that he won’t negotiate. We negotiate over this stuff all the time, all the time.” Among the characteristics of the current iteration of the Republican Party has been an increasing tendency *not* to negotiate. Instead, it’s been more common in recent years to see petulant Republicans adopt the crossed arms and frown of just about any 3-year-old in the country when confronted with something s/he doesn’t like, followed by repeated voicing of what sounds to me like a lack of willingness to negotiate: “No!!”

    It’s my continued hope that those who actually want to govern, rather than impose an antidemocratic ideology on the population as a whole, will eventually regain control of the Republican Party. At the moment, however, I see no evidence of that on the horizon.

  2. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 09/24/2013 - 11:53 am.


    I doubt that this message will get much traction with the more radical members of the Republican party. Most people would have given up the effort after the first three attempts and found a different method to accomplish their goals–one that has a realistic chance of working. But to attempt 40+ time with the same results with each effort is beyond simple stupidity. You have to be deliberately obtuse to think this is an effective way to govern.

    The bottom line is far from wanting ACA scrapped, most people want it improved. There’s no good reason why our health care should cost twice as much as other country’s and produce worse results, especially given that we’re supposed to be one of the most innovative countries in the world. How come we’re a super power when it comes to tanks, planes, and aircraft carriers, but not when it comes to health care?

  3. Submitted by Mike Worcester on 09/24/2013 - 01:17 pm.

    Penance for Vin Weber?

    Every time I hear former Rep. Weber speak about the modern Republican Party, it makes me chuckle. What we see now is nothing more than the logical extension of the scorched earth politics practiced by former Speaker Newt Gingrich and his followers. It was Rep. Weber who helped engineer the rise of Gingrich.

    So what Weber now decries is really the progeny of his very own handiwork. Is this an act of penance? Or is he hoping that we won’t remember what he wrought. Some of us sure do.

  4. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/24/2013 - 01:21 pm.

    Doing the same thing over & over, expecting different results

    This was attributed to Einstein as a definition of INSANITY.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/24/2013 - 01:27 pm.

    This sounds like the same dire warnings

    that the world was going to end if they didn’t do something to halt “sequestration.” All that’s resulted from that “calamity” is that the federal budget deficit has been cut in half.

    Polls show upwards of 70% of Americans don’t approve of Obamacare. I don’t see how it affects any republican politician if his record is he did everything in his power to stop, or at least delay, it.

    The politicians who’ll have some ‘splaining to do will be those who pushed it through while voting to exempt themselves and their big corporate donors.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 09/24/2013 - 05:29 pm.

      SIngle Payer

      And a good chunk of that 70% dislike Obamacare because it is not single payer.

      Only in the minds of conservatives is that 70% entirely on the side of the GOP health care plan.

      Hey, what is that GOP health care plan, any way?

  6. Submitted by David Frenkel on 09/24/2013 - 02:19 pm.

    loosing base

    The GOP are appealing to their shrinking base of support as was shown in the last election. I would disagree about this not hurting the GOP at election time. The fastest growing segments of the US population does not share the issues of the GOP.

  7. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 09/24/2013 - 03:03 pm.

    If I were the Dems…

    every time this measure was introduced, I’d introduce a measure calling for a recount of the 2000 Florida Presidential vote. Why stop at one dead horse?

  8. Submitted by jason myron on 09/24/2013 - 09:12 pm.

    Hey, what is that GOP health care plan, any way?

    Die quickly…

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/26/2013 - 09:12 am.

    That sound is the sound of another nail….

    Cruz thinks he’s setting himself up for the White House? I can see the Ad’s now… footage of him reading “Green Eggs and Ham” on the Senate Floor in a failed attempt to stop Obamacare, which by then will be a popular program that will have delivered health care, and affordable health care to tens of millions of Americans. And the Republicans will be able to brag that they fought tooth and nail to keep millions of Americans from getting health care, and millions more from getting affordable care… yeah, that’s political genius that “tactic.”

    You have to understand, the Republicans never had a health care plan because they never really acknowledged a health care problem let alone crises in the first place. We had thriving health care “market”, what more could you ask for?

    It’s kind of sad to see a party disintegrate like this. Their hatred of Obama, like Clinton before him, and I guess any Democrat that ever will win the White House, simply blinds them to all logic and intelligence. Republicans have obviously decided that no election or vote they lose is a legitimate election. And it is funny to see all these Republicans who created this Party, Weber, Brodcorb, Newt, and even McCain (who let’s not forget single handedly put the Tea Party on the ticket with suicidal bid to put Palin in the White House).

    The delusion that it’s Obama not the Republicans refusing to negotiate is breathtaking in it’s partisan blindness. The refusal to submit to blackmail is now a failure to negotiate? And who’sidea was blackmail in the first place? These things are NOT routinely negotiated. NEVER before in US history has a political pulled a stunt like this, threatened to shut the government down or default on national debts in order to defund a law that has been passed by both houses and signed into law. The only possible hope that the Republicans have is that the voting population is too preoccupied with football at the moment to notice all this stupidity.

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