10.02.2013 0

Playing poker with Harry Reid on the government shutdown

By Bill WilsonDem_Poker

I hope and pray I am wrong.

Ideally, I hope the House of Representatives stands firm against demands from the Senate and White House to rubber stamp a so-called “clean” continuing resolution — one that will allow funding for Obamacare to take effect. That they hold the line even with the government partially shut down.

But based on everything we see, the initial signs are not so good.

For starters, the House has already passed three continuing resolutions, each a serious downgrade from the last. First, it would have defunded Obamacare in full. Then, it just delayed it for a year. And in their most recent bid, it would only delay the individual mandate and roll back congressional benefits under the law — and would allow full funding for Obamacare to take effect.

So, before the government had even shut down, Boehner had negotiated against himself no less than three times. Next, the House moved to appoint conferees for the legislation — the one that funds Obamacare.

At this rate, Harry Reid need only do nothing, and he will get what he wanted all along — a continuing resolution that fails to defund the health care law. And it is because, ever the shrewd Nevada poker player, Reid has an accurate gauge of his opponent.

Fortunately for Boehner, Reid may have overplayed his hand when he rejected the House’s request for a conference committee on the bill. This gives Boehner the opportunity to correct course and strengthen his hand so taxpayers don’t get cleaned out when Obamacare fully goes into effect in January.

In short, it is time for Boehner to double down. Instead of folding on defunding the health care law, the House would be well-advised to revert to its original bid. Which is that the House will fund the government at sequester levels except for Obamacare via the continuing resolution.

And then, every time Harry Reid kills such legislation in the Senate, Boehner ought to raise the stakes. The next continuing resolution after that would defund Obamacare in full — and require that any and all Environmental Protection Agency regulations issued since 2009 be subject to full congressional approval or else be rescinded.

Then the one after that does all of the above, and it defunds National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program. After that, all of the above plus it defunds the National Labor Relations Board, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.

After that, you get the idea. Boehner can get his young staff to put their minds together to come up with scores of continuing resolutions that will in effect ratchet up the House’s negotiating position — instead of undermining it.

Eventually, Reid will get the idea.

In the meantime, the House should also resolve to continue passing piecemeal bills that will fund certain portions of the government. Before the shutdown occurred, the House wisely moved legislation that funds the military and law enforcement — which has already been signed into law — and also bills to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Parks Service.

But, here again, Reid is overplaying his hand. He called the effort to fund veterans and the national parks “just another wacky idea from the Tea Party-driven Republicans.” To add insult to injury, Democrats in the House defeated the measures by failing to provide votes necessary to achieve the two-thirds majority necessary under suspension of the rules.

This gives Boehner another opportunity, this time to expose Reid as the true hostage-taker. Denying funds to our nation’s heroic veterans is about as low as one can go in politics, a thug move through and through. Reid would prefer to keep his political leverage rather than fund the parts of government that are not controversial while Congress works to a resolution on the broader issues at play. It is deplorable. A disgrace.

However, there is a limit to what passing appropriations bills can do. If all the appropriations bills are enacted, the shutdown will end — and Obamacare will be funded.

So, if Republicans are sincere in their determination to roll back the health care law, they still need to withhold funds implementing the law. That includes monies for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, and every other department and agency tasked with handling Obamacare.

It is certainly a delicate balancing act Boehner must perform, and definitely an intimidating situation to deal with. It can be handled with grace if he is nimble.

As the shutdown wears on, if Boehner plays his cards right, Republicans’ hand will improve over time — and he can win. But, he cannot fold on his principal demand that no continuing resolution pass that allows funding for Obamacare.

As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) recently remarked in his famous filibuster, “In a game of poker, if somebody makes a bet, and then says to you, if you raise me, I’m going to fold, [he] will lose 100 percent of [his] poker games.”

Instead, Boehner should be all in against Reid to stop Obamacare — and let the chips fall where they may.

Bill Wilson is a member of the board of directors of Americans for Limited Government.

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