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Ted Cruz, Obamacare, and the Death of Reality

Why can't we even know if it's possible to defund Obamacare or not?

By Petrarch  |  August 5, 2013

As so often, otherwise conservative politicians are slinging mud at each other rather than the enemy over what appears to be an arcane point, namely, the best tactic to defang Obamacare.

Simply put, Obamacare is the law of the land, duly (if corruptly) passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the sitting President.  Since that president is still sitting and Harry Reid still presides over the Senate, it's impossible to pass a repeal though the House of Representatives has pointlessly voted to do so some 40 times and counting.

Is there, perhaps, some other approach that might actually accomplish something?  Sen. Ted Cruz thinks so:

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Tx., says there is only one way to defeat the Affordable Care Act, and it's not another attempt to repeal the law.

"The reason why I'm focused on defunding Obamacare is that it's the only strategy that anyone has suggested that has any chance of success," he said on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report." "This is our best opportunity to defeat Obamacare, and it may be our last opportunity."

The idea is that passing a law is all very well, but it takes money to enforce and implement the law.  Since the Constitution requires the House of Representatives to initiate all spending bills, it would seem plausible to just not appropriate any money for Obamacare in next year's budget - or better yet, put language in the budget forbidding spending any money that way - and dare Obama to veto it and shut down the government.

You might think all opponents of Obamacare would applaud at least giving this a try.  You'd be wrong, because the government says it won't work:

Even if the government were to temporarily close down later this year, ObamaCare would still live on, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

The nonpartisan government agency said this week that even if lawmakers fail to pass legislation to fund the government, it would not prevent the bulk of the Affordable Care Act from taking effect. Some conservative Republican lawmakers have floated the idea of a government shutdown as a way to block the law and force President Obama to ultimately scrap it.

"It appears that substantial ACA implementation might continue during a lapse in annual appropriations that resulted in a temporary government shutdown," the report said.

That's primarily due to two factors. First, the government can keep spending during a shutdown using "no-year discretionary funds" and reserves set aside for mandatory expenditures. The ACA specifically set aside billions of dollars for its own implementation that won't be touched by a shutdown.

Second, the report said ObamaCare could fall under one of the limited exceptions in which the government is allowed to allocate funds in lieu of a spending bill from Congress.

In short, the White House would have the money and the power to keep the ACA up and running even if the lights go dark in Washington.

On the premise that if the government says so it must surely be so, quite a few noted Republicans are earning that legendary "strange new respect" from the media by telling Sen. Cruz that he's nuts.  Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer are nobody's idea of Reagan reincarnated, but ordinarily they're not accused of carrying water for Obama or any of his works either.

Is There An Underlying Reality?

What we find frustrating about this is that there's no rational reason why there should be this disagreement or for conservative pundits to be throwing rocks.  The Obamacare law may be two thousand pages long but surely there are Republican congressmen who have read the thing by now?  Or surely there are enough lawyers on retainer at the RNC to have determined what funds the law does or does not allow to be spent, as written and enacted?

Yes, the original law authorized a billion dollars to be spent on preparations, but it's spent already.  Is it truly impossible to read the law, the budget, and the government's spending reports and know for sure what's what?  Are we not even trying?

Yes, the Obama administration has a track record of ignoring the law when convenient and spending whatever it likes however it pleases.  That's why Congress has the authority to demand that officials provide documents and testify under oath, as some Republicans are already doing on this issue.

The bottom line is - what's the bottom line?  Why can't we find it?  Why isn't our side apparently even looking for it in a consistent, unified way?

The principle at stake goes far beyond Obamacare.  If we cannot even agree on what spending is authorized by law for something as gargantuan and controversial as Obamacare, how could we possibly hope to control government spending on less visible issues?

Our government accounting is so fraudulent already that, supposedly, our statutory national debt has remained exactly the same for over two months, coincidentally just below the statutory limit.  Have we finally balanced the budget?  No:

On May 17, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, saying the Treasury would begin what he called “the standard set of extraordinary measures” that allows the agency to continue to borrow and spend even after it has hit the legal debt limit, CNS reported.

In plain English: He's cooking the books to cheat the rules.  So yes, in a sense defunding Obamacare isn't going to actually stop it: as long as Obama is in office, he'll do whatever it takes to keep the march of socialism rolling along, with the eager help of virtually the entire bureaucracy and media elites.  In that sense, no, Ted Cruz's plan isn't going to work; he probably knows this in his heart.

But it will accomplish something vitally important: It will demonstrate clearly and plainly to the American people that our Federal government is literally lawless, rejecting the Constitutional authority of Congress over how your money is spent.  It's horrifying to have to write it - but the fact is that that's where we are.  Much worse than stating an unpleasant truth is ignoring it.

Which, apparently, is what Republican leaders would prefer that we do, so nuts to them.  It's beside the point whether Sen. Cruz's defunding campaign will work or not; it's far more important that we find out whether Congressional spending authority - well, really Congress itself - still means anything at all.