Marco Rubio's Deeply Irresponsible Strategy for Defunding Obamacare

He suggests forcing President Obama to choose between his law and funding the Defense Department, but he's probably just posturing.
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Reuters

Until recently, immigration reform was the top priority for Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who loves "Straight Outta Compton" and owns a sword called Chang.

But the aspiring presidential candidate is now shoring up his support among conservatives, who are likely to swoon all over again, by chatting with talk-radio hosts like Hugh Hewitt and inveighing against Barack Hussein Obamacare.

How does he want to stop the health care law from being implemented? I'll let him explain:

MARCO RUBIO: Look, I'm not in favor of short-term budgets. I'd much rather have a long-term budget that balances for the country, but what I'm saying that this Obamacare thing is such a mess and is so bad for the country that I am willing to make an exception and vote for a short-term budget that funds the government, that funds the Senate, it makes your Social Security checks delivered on time. The only thing it shouldn't fund is the implementation of Obamacare because of the disaster that it is. And I think we should pass a bill that does that and then the President needs to decide whether he's willing to veto a budget that keeps the government open because it doesn't fund Obamacare.

HUGH HEWITT: If we get right down to short strokes and you've done that and the president has vetoed it, somehow you got it through the Senate, would you be willing to see the government shut down including DoD, Senator Rubio?

MARCO RUBIO: Well, the question would actually be on the president. Is the president willing to see the government shut down? We're the ones that are saying that we're prepared to fund the government. He's the one that's saying he's not prepared to fund the government unless it funds Obamacare. And so the fundamental question that he'll need to answer and his allies in the Congress will need to answer is, is Obamacare more important than the country? Is Obamacare more important than funding defense, because I think that's a false choice. I don't think that they should put us in that position that they are putting us in now which says that unless the budget funds Obamacare we are willing to get -- go to a showdown.

I'd have preferred health-care reform that looked a lot different than the Affordable Care Act. Unlike Matt Yglesias, I don't think the law is going to be great, though the truth is that no one knows how it will turn out at the moment -- it's a massive, extremely complicated piece of legislation that could conceivably improve on the status quo or do more harm than good, depending on unknown events.

But the law passed fair and square. Since it passed, the Republican Party has run incessantly against the legislation, and the American people denied them both the presidency and a Congressional majority big enough to override a veto.

The GOP is free to keep running against the law, and to amend or overturn it if they get the votes. But what Rubio proposes is madness. As Rubio describes it, he wants to create a situation in which Obama can (a) do great damage to the country or (b) give up on his signature achievement. Note that Obama himself sincerely thinks that (b) would also do great damage to the country, so creating that situation would be deeply irresponsible.

Rubio goes on to say that there probably isn't sufficient Republican support to pursue that course, and that it's "discouraging that we have to convince our colleagues that this is an issue that's worth going to the mat on."

GOP primary voters should understand what's going on:

Marco Rubio thinks you're stupid.

To persuade you that he's more committed than other Republicans to repealing Obamacare, he is signing on to reckless, unrealistic tactics for getting rid of the law, not because he thinks they're likely to work, but because he thinks you're likely to reward the pol whose posturing is most extreme. Don't fall for it.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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