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Republicans must resist game of chicken with president over ObamaCare

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President Obama would love nothing more than Republicans’ providing him a bully pulpit and big stick with which he can beat them daily through the 2014 midterm elections.  That’s what the Republicans would give Mr. Obama if they shut down the government by trying to defund ObamaCare in the Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government after October 1.

That’s because the Continuing Resolution only affects discretionary spending.  Virtually all of ObamaCare costs are mandatory spending, unaffected by what’s in the CR.  Defunding ObamaCare in the CR would not affect spending for the expansion of Medicaid, which is almost half of ObamaCare’s cost.  Nor would it affect the Exchanges – the subsidies for insurance coverage – that’s also mandatory spending.  

In fact, as little as 1% or 2% of ObamaCare’s outlays for the first ten years would be affected by adding to the CR a provision defunding ObamaCare.  

This could translate into significantly less than $10 billion in discretionary spending cut for FY14.  And the Obama administration could find some of that money in this year’s budget or in funds they can move around or simply go without.  

Mr. Obama would love for the GOP to threaten a shutdown over $10 billion in ObamaCare funding, while ObamaCare continues to get over a $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.  Senator Tom Coburn is absolutely right to say such a strategy could lose the House for the GOP.

Remember, when Republicans shut down the government in 1995, they had funded half the fiscal year’s budget including all of defense and still the GOP lost badly in the court of public opinion.  

This time, if no CR is passed by September 30 of this year, nothing has been funded. That means there's zero for defense.  So the troops won’t get paid…starting the first week of October.  And other essential services will stop because there won’t be any money at all, unlike 1995.

Rather than risking a shutdown of the government over less than $10 billion, Republicans should go on the offense, highlighting the president’s threat to shut down the government unless he gets $91 billion more in new spending in the CR.  Republicans are for holding the line on spending; Mr. Obama wants more.

ObamaCare is a train wreck.  Republicans’ warnings about the law are now coming true.  Premiums are going up; people are losing their health plans; companies are cutting their employees’ hours, costs are far more than estimated and hence the debt bigger that thought as well.

The GOP has better ground fighting against ObamaCare whose problems will grow as implementation gets underway.  House Republicans can use their power of oversight to keep drawing attention to the law’s many shortcomings.  They can attempt to repeal parts of ObamaCare or seriously alter some of its provisions, as the House GOP did when it pressed the issue of delaying the individual mandate when the Obama administration delayed the employer mandate.

The GOP must also offer alternatives.  A Crossroads GPS poll from last month showed strong backing for conservative reforms that reduce costs. For example, 81% support letting families save more tax-free for out-of-pocket health expenses, 82% are in favor of allowing individuals to purchase health insurance with pretax dollars, and 78% back the sale of insurance across state lines.

ObamaCare’s unpopularity suggests that Republicans can win on health care—but must resist a game of chicken with the president.

Karl Rove joined Fox News Channel (FNC) as a political contributor in February 2008. He also currently serves as a columnist for the Wall Street Journal.