Speaker of the House John Boehner claims that he is doing what America wants by combining a government shutdown with defunding Obamacare. Is he right? PHOTO: Reuters
John Boehner and his caucus of House Republicans are threatening to shut down the government, doing tremendous harm to the economy and suspending public services unless Senate Democrats and President Obama agree to defund Obamacare, Obama’s sweeping health law and number one legislative achievement. The call to defund Obamacare is at a fever pitch on the right, because the law is about to fully kick in, and once it is established, it will be very hard to undo.
Boehner has had a constant refrain since the House voted to couple defunding Obamacare with keeping the government running: “The American people don't want the president's health care bill, and they don't want the government to shut down. Republicans are listening.”
Boehner offers no justification for why the two should go together, and that linkage is where his argument falls apart. It’s true that a government shutdown would be very unpopular, and he’s also right that Obamacare has never been particularly popular. In the past two months, Obamacare is opposed in polls by an average spread of 39% in favor, 51% against. At its best, Obamacare has polled around even.
However, none of that means that Obamacare has to be joined with preventing a government shutdown into a single piece of legislation. The U.S. Senate is expected to pass a bill that simply keeps the government funded with no mention of Obamacare. What’s the polling like on forcing a government shutdown to defund Obamacare? Not good:
A United Technologies/National Journal poll found that only 27% support the Republican Party approach, and 63% oppose pairing a government shutdown with defunding Obamacare. The tactic doesn’t even have support from a majority of Republicans, who are opposed 42-51.
So, of course America doesn’t want a government shutdown and Obamacare is currently more disliked than liked (though stay tuned for when people actually interact with it). But combining the two is extremely unpopular, which is why Boehner doesn’t mention that part of the deal.