Top GOPers abandon Obamacare shutdown strategy

At least for now, key Republicans are giving up on defunding Obamacare

By Elias Isquith

Published October 10, 2013 1:10PM (EDT)

Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz                                      (AP/Steven Senne/Reuters/Yuri Gripas/AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz (AP/Steven Senne/Reuters/Yuri Gripas/AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Signaling an openness to accept other concessions instead, Republican leadership is backing off its demand that the government shutdown result in the defunding of Obamacare, according to a new report in the Washington Post.

"Republican Party leaders, activists and donors now widely acknowledge that the effort to kill President Obama’s signature initiative by hitting the brakes on the government has been a failure," reports the Post. Noting that Obamacare has "largely disappeared" from Republicans' thinking, the report goes on to describe members of the party as "scrambling" to find a backup strategy.

The Post emphasizes that both Rep. Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor recently penned editorial columns asking President Obama to negotiate, while making no mention of Obamacare. In both cases, the focus was on "reforming" social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security, rather than defunding or delaying Obamacare.

More from the Washington Post:

Some of the most influential players in the conservative movement also were taking pains Wednesday to maintain their distance from the shutdown strategy, while reaffirming their opposition to Obamacare.

The chief lobbyist for Koch Industries sent a letter to Capitol Hill offices saying the company’s owners — heavyweight conservative donors Charles and David Koch — have never publicly supported the defund strategy, despite assertions by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and other Democrats to the contrary.

“Koch believes that Obamacare will increase deficits, lead to an overall lowering of the standard of health care in America, and raise taxes,” Koch lobbyist Philip Ellender wrote. “However, Koch has not taken a position on the legislative tactic of tying the [spending bill needed to keep the government open] to defunding Obamacare nor have we lobbied on legislative provisions defunding Obamacare.”

One major Koch-funded organization, Americans for Prosperity, has emphasized potential problems with the law but has kept its distance from efforts to defund it and from the shutdown strategy.

“We see this as a long-term effort,” said Tim Phillips, executive director of the group, which plans to resume a $6 million ad campaign against the law. “We think this effort continues into the fall of 2014 and even beyond.”

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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Debt Ceiling Eric Cantor Government Shutdown Obamacare Paul Ryan