I’ve referred back to this post so many times since it first went up more than two years ago that I almost have to apologize for doing it again.
Almost, but not really, and especially not this time.
For those who are new to CG&G (or who have blocked out any memory of that post for your own reasons), in early 2011 I was the first speaker at the first meeting of the House tea party caucus.
I was invited by Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) to speak about the coming debt ceiling fight because of a column I had written (and she misread) for Roll Call. I spoke first but was asked to stay for the rest of the meeting when the tea party chairs from Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia told (actually…screamed at would be a better description) the 20 or so representatives who were there what they wanted from them in that session of Congress.
Number one on their wish list was — and this is an exact quote — “defund Obamacare.”
This was an exact prequel to what’s happening now.
The House was scheduled to vote the next day on a continuing resolution that, if it wasn’t enacted, would result in a federal government shutdown. The tea party state chairs were adamant that the members of Congress — all of which were self-professed tea party supporters — not vote for the CR if it included any funding for Obamacare.
The next day 5 tea party members voted against the CR because it included funding for Obamacare. Eventually, 59 voted against the final CR with the Obamacare funding that kept the government open through the rest of fiscal 2012.
In other words, using the CR as leverage to defund Obamacare is anything but a new plan by the tea party wing of the GOP. It has, in fact, been a goal for more than two years.
What’s put it front and center now are many of the changes in the overall political situation I posted about yesterday. These include:
- A greatly weakened John Boehner (R-OH), whose hold on the speakership is more precarious by the day because of dwindling tea party support
- A decision by House Democrats not to be as quick to provide the votes to pass legislation when the GOP doesn’t have the support of its own caucus to get things done
- An increasingly obvious split among House Republicans about funding levels with many becoming more militant about spending reductions that go too far and others demanding that they be even deeper
Let me add one more to this list: tea party frustration with House Republicans over what they see as their inability to deliver. That makes their #1 target of defunding Obamacare the most important thing Boehner and Co. can talk about, threaten, and promise and the reason it’s become such an issue two years after it was first mentioned.