Government & Politics

Cruz's Box Canyon

Let the House strategy work!

By Mark Alexander · Sep. 27, 2013

“Experience [has] long taught me the reasonableness of mutual sacrifices of opinion among those who are to act together for any common object, and the expediency of doing what good we can; when we cannot do all we would wish.” –Thomas Jefferson (1803)

The DemoCare debates between the House and Senate, served to invigorate a lot of active grassroots support for defunding or delaying the implementation of the next phase of Barack Obama’s nationalized health care plan, due to take effect 01 October.

In my column “The DemoCare and DemoDebt Debate,” I provided an analytical outline of the conservative House Republicans' Continuing Resolution and debt ceiling strategy. For the record, I noted then:

Here is the House and Senate Republican strategy and endgame (yes, there is one, even if GOP “leadership” is trying to catch up with the rank and file). There is a growing grassroots storm brewing in opposition to socialized medicine, now that the reality and consequences of ObamaCare are starting to sink in. The House is using the CR as a vehicle to force Democrat votes on defunding, delaying or amending this job-killing budget-buster. The DemoCare dare is really a strategic long shot effort to delay implementation of the “individual mandate” until after the 2014 election when Republicans believe they will have generated enough political opposition to significantly modify major portions of the law. Indeed, Obama has, for political expediency, already unilaterally (and unconstitutionally) delayed implementation of the employer mandate.

Knowing the House “defund tactic” won’t pass a full vote in the Demo-controlled Senate, as Republican Sen. Ted Cruz made plain prior to the House legislation even making it to the Senate, this strategy assumes that Demo Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will strip out that measure and send it back to the House. The next step will be for House Republicans to return a CR replacing the word “defund” with “delay,” which is also likely to fail. As a third pass, I think the House should return a “clean CR” with an amendment to prohibit any congressional subsidies for healthcare (after Obama unconstitutionally did an end run around the Vitter amendment), and demand Executive Branch employees also be subject to all provisions of the ObamaCare mandates – both measures with enormous popular support. That notwithstanding, the measures might still stall in the Senate, where Democrats would like to run the clock down and force a “government shutdown,” which they and their Leftmedia advocates will effectively blame on Republicans.

If Demo Senators reject all of the above, then the House should, in the stated interest not shutting down government, acquiesce, and let the ObamaCare mandates go into effect as scheduled. But that does not mean the strategy is a failure – quite the contrary. Republicans will have gained enormous momentum ahead of 2014. The net effect of the Republican strategy is that Democrats in the House and Senate were forced to vote on the defund and delay measures, and will have to defend those votes ahead of the midterm elections. In regard to the measure to “delay” the implementation of ObamaCare, Demo votes against that “Republican compromise” will be judged harshly in states and districts with only modest support for ObamaCare, amid growing grassroots protests against Obama’s socialized medicine scheme.

What will drive those grassroots protests?

Obama, the consummate narcissist, having himself even embraced the name “ObamaCare,” will himself, along with every member of the House and Senate with a “D” after their name, suffer a reversal of political fortunes after ObamaCare is implemented. Why? Because ObamaCare has high negatives in public opinion polls, and from October 01 forward, every American of every political stripe who has any issue with health care, whether a hangnail or heart transplant, a delay in a doctor’s office or in critical care for a loved one, will tie blame for their discontent like a noose around the necks of Obama and his Democrats, who were solely responsible for forcing this abomination upon the American people. Additionally, dealing with government clerical minions in this new bloated bureaucracy will be no different than dealing with any other huge government bureaucracy – endless without resolution. No matter how Fab-Tastic ObamaCare may be for some Demo constituencies, Democrats are going to be the target of every health care complaint.

This week, that strategy was working well until Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), however well meaning, derailed it. Sen. Cruz should be applauded for invigorating that debate, but not for letting his choice of tactics define that debate and derail what WAS, a very good strategy. Early in the week, before the House even sent its CR Bill to the Senate with the “defund” language attached, Sen. Cruz said the bill did not have a chance, effectively throwing House conservatives under the bus. Cruz then recovered from that blunder somewhat, by leading the Senate charge in support of the House CR, knowing full well, as he stated previously, that it had no chance of passing the Senate. Then Cruz, for reasons know only to Cruz, unilaterally changed his tactic, by insisting Senate Republicans not support cloture on the House CR (not cut off debate), which means the House legislation would never have gotten a Senate vote, effectively creating a box canyon stalemate for the House conservative strategy, leading to a shut down of some government operations on 30 September.

Cruz’s tactic suffers from a basic and insurmountable math error – there are only 47 Republicans in the Senate – a minority. As noted by fellow Republican Sen. Bob Corker, “I may not have gone to Princeton or Harvard, but I can count.”

Further, a forced shutdown would not stop the implementation of ObamaCare, because it falls primarily under the mandatory spending category, which the CR does not control. But a forced shutdown will, most assuredly, be hung around Republican necks.

For the record, I actually admire Cruz because unlike John McCain, who labeled himself “Maverick,” Ted Cruz has a genuine Maverick spirit. But intellectual honesty trumps my admiration for Cruz, and while I admire his tactical tenacity, he does not appear to be able to see the battle, beyond the trench he has dug for himself. Cruz does not seem to embrace the notion that when you find yourself too deep in a hole, stop digging. Unfortunately, at various turns this past week, though Cruz has proven he has populist appeal, his unilateral tactics became detrimental to the overall conservative strategy.

Making matters worse, he then blasted anyone on his own team for not seeing it his way, rather than focusing his criticism on Democrats from states where ObamaCare is unpopular. Cruz even likened Republicans opposed to his faux-filibuster tactic with Nazi sympathizers. “If you go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany. Look, we saw in Britain, Neville Chamberlain, who told the British people, ‘Accept the Nazis. Yes, they’ll dominate the continent of Europe, but that’s not our problem. Let’s appease them. We can’t possibly stand against them.’”

If the U.S. fought WWII using Cruz’s tactical template, there would be a lot more German and Japanese spoken around the world today.

Indeed, at some point this week it seems that Cruz transitioned from a position of principle, to one of political ambition, perhaps at that point where he lost site of the overarching conservative strategy. The fact is, the House’s Continuing Resolution strategy, as outlined above, was unfolding precisely as planned, and the only thing Cruz accomplished was further constricting the opportunity for Republicans to get the best deal they could using the CR as a vehicle, and pushing the debate closer to the edge of government shutdown, which does not have public support.

Cruz’s tactics notwithstanding, on Friday the Senate voted 79-19, with 25 Republicans joining all Democrats, for cloture – to end debate on the Republican House CR bill to extend short-term government funding and its measure to defund ObamaCare. This cloture vote is precisely the action the House anticipated when sending the bill to the Senate, in order to force a Senate vote on the bill itself, which could not take place until debate ended.

The Senate then voted 54-44 along party lines, and Harry Reid’s Democrat majority approved striking of the defund language in the CR. Now, as anticipated by Republicans, the bill goes back to the House for another pass and revision. If I was correct in my analysis a week ago, then the House conservatives will return a plan the replaces the word “defund” with “delay,” arguing that since Obama unconstitutionally delayed the employer mandate, the he should also delay the individual mandate. This has been their underlying objective all along. Once that is rejected, they will follow with a “clean CR” with the exception of an amendment that forces all in the Executive and Legislative branches, to be subject to ObamaCare mandates.

Unfortunately, given the fact that delays on this legislation have pushed it to the 11th hour, Senate Democrats will likely stall any further action on the next House version, and force a government shutdown on 01 October.

Make no mistake. Democrats will successfully hang that shutdown on Republicans, because Cruz has inadvertently set House and Senate Republicans up to take the fall. The coming shutdown will also eclipse Obama’s IRS, Benghazi and Syrian scandals, enabling him to get back on the offensive, and put Republicans on the run. The price for Cruz’s folly will be enormous.

As for Ted Cruz, his great strength – his single-minded and dogged devotion to achieving his objectives – is also be his greatest weakness. His tactics won him a lot of devoted constituents, but in this case, did not advance the conservative effort to unwind ObamaCare. Rather than set up a gauntlet to prevent the House legislation from proceeding, he should have stepped aside and let the conservative strategy play out. As I wrote last week, “There is an old adage: When your adversary is defeating himself, don’t interfere.”

In the meantime, I encourage all grassroots Patriots to embrace the larger conservative strategy over unilateral tactics. I realize that breaking ranks with Cruz’s new constituency will cause some heartburn, but my devotion is to Liberty before any man. Despite the fact that Republican House and Senate leaders are weak – Cruz and many of his followers make a grave mistake using political capital attacking Republicans, even though some are entrenched moderates. The great failing of our Tea Party movement is that some conservatives devote much more capital to infighting than they do locking arms and forming a unified front against our adversaries – much to the applause of the Left.

Post Note: Thomas Sowell’s assessment of Ted Cruz’s failed tactics is summed up thus: “The Tea Party’s principles were clear. But their tactics can only be judged by the consequences. … With the chances of making a dent in ObamaCare by trying to defund it being virtually zero, and the Republican Party’s chances of gaining power in either the 2014 or 2016 elections being reduced by the public’s backlash against that futile attempt, there was virtually nothing to gain politically and much to lose. … If the Tea Party made a tactical mistake, that is not necessarily fatal in politics. People can even learn from their mistakes – but only if they admit to themselves that they were mistaken. Whether the Tea Party can do that may determine not only its fate but the fate of an America that still needs the principles that brought Tea Party members together in the first place. … Preserving my principles unshaken, I reserve my activity for rational endeavors.” Read Part one and Part Two of Sowell’s commentary.