September 26, 2013

Looking to block Obamacare, Republicans in search of a strategy

By DAN BALZ The Washington Post

WASHINGTON –€” Congressional Republicans have become a party of grievances in search of a strategy.

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Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and GOP leaders speak to reporters after a closed-door strategy session at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. Pressure is building on fractious Republicans over legislation to prevent a partial government shutdown, as the Democratic-led Senate is expected to strip a tea party-backed plan to defund the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as "Obamacare," from their bill. Boehner originally preferred a plan to deliver to President Obama a stopgap funding bill without the provision to eliminate the health care law. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Their first grievance is with President Obama's Affordable Care Act, the single most unifying issue for a party that has been showing signs of divisions all year. Rank-and-file Republicans, especially those who are aligned with the tea party, hate the new health-care law. Their anger has welled up to force GOP leaders to respond with ever-riskier strategies to delay, defund or in some other way disrupt the imminent implementation of the act.

Their second is with Obama himself, and his steadfast resistance to negotiate with them on any aspect of the health-care law. The president may unilaterally decide to delay this or that aspect of the law, as he did again on Thursday with a small portion of the implementation plan. But he doesn't want Republicans to touch it. Each time he makes a change, his unwillingness to engage only infuriates Republicans more.

The antagonism between Obama and the Republicans was on full display on Thursday. House GOP leaders went before the cameras to offer their latest ideas on funding the government, defunding or delaying Obamacare and dealing with the day next month when the government runs out of borrowing authority.

Suddenly it seemed like the summer of 2011 on steroids. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and others seemed to up the ante again in their quest to stop Obamacare and to force the president to yield. Not only did they continue on a path that could lead to a partial shutdown of the government next week, they also signaled that they are ready for another confrontation in mid-October over the debt ceiling, with a list of demands for the president.

An hour or so later, Obama answered at an appearance at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Md.. Rather than trying to tamp down on partisan rhetoric or lower temperatures, Obama did the opposite, repeatedly waiving red flags at the Republicans.

He taunted them and ridiculed them. He said they are obsessed with his health-care law and described some of their objections and characterizations as "crazy" talk. "The closer we get [to implementation], the more desperate they get," he said. "I mean, over the last few weeks the rhetoric has just been cranked up to a place I've never seen before."

He questioned their real motivation in seeking to stop it, claiming that Republicans are worried more by the possibility that it might work than they are by their assertion that it could wreck the country. "If it was as bad as they said it was going to be, then they could just go ahead and let it happen and then everybody would hate it so much, and then everybody would vote to repeal it, and that would be the end of it," he said. "So what is it that they're so scared about?

And he was also defiant in reasserting that he will not negotiate over raising the debt ceiling, as he had told Boehner in a recent telephone call. He said he would not give in to "blackmail" on issues that he said had nothing to do with the budget. "I will not negotiate on anything when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States of America," he said to applause. "We're not going to submit to this kind of total irresponsibility."

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