Friday, October 11, 2013

Shutdown Showdown: Day 11

Gary L. Bauer

According to the Associated Press, House Republican leaders sent President Obama what has been described as a "framework for fiscal talks." The offer reportedly involves a six-week increase in the debt ceiling, an end to the government shutdown and easing of the sequester cuts. This short-term deal is intended to buy time for negotiations on entitlement spending.

This morning, Obama met with the Senate Republican caucus. Prior the meeting, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, "It will be a good opportunity to engage in a frank exchange of ideas with the president, if that's what he's looking for." Call me skeptical, but that seems like a really big "if" in my view.

The White House and Senate Democrats think they hold all the cards in the PR game. They have refused to consider any changes to Obamacare. They have refused to consider any of the appropriations bills the House has already passed. They are even inventing controversies out of thin air.

We reported earlier this week that federal bureaucrats tried to cut off funding for death benefits to the widows and children of our fallen heroes in Afghanistan. It was totally unnecessary.

A legal opinion from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service makes it clear that legislation to fully fund our troops, passed by Congress and signed by Obama before the shutdown began, protected these benefits. But the bureaucrats tried it anyway just to make conservatives look bad. And the polls suggest they may be succeeding. (See next item.)

But if congressional liberals continue in their obstinate defense of Obamacare, perhaps the best case scenario may be to let Obamacare play out and continue to be the disaster that it is. Perhaps if the media and the American people were not so preoccupied with the shutdown and scaremongering over a default, they would be more focused on Obamacare's increasingly obvious failures. For example:

  • Nine insurance companies are abandoning the Obamacare exchange in Nebraska. One company notified state officials that Obamacare's "increased regulations make it difficult to continue.

  • Thousands of doctors in Connecticut just got fired. That seems odd given that one of the major goals of Obamacare was to increase access to healthcare providers for the previously uninsured.

  • But according to one news report, "Termination letters went to physicians caring for Medicare patients." Remember how Obamacare was partially paid for? With a $500 billion cut to Medicare.

  • The media spun this by noting that benefits weren't being cut, just "payments to providers." We were supposed to believe that cutting payments to doctors would not affect patient access. Well, now we see exactly what is happening. In Connecticut at least the providers themselves are getting cut

  • In the midst of a government shutdown when the Obama Administration supposedly can't find money for the widows and children of our troops, it did have funds to send HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on an Obamacare sales tour. Yesterday she stopped at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

  • I'm sure Sebelius wishes the event had been cancelled for lack of funds. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "About 20 people armed with laptops and certified by the government to sign up people for coverage were meeting with uninsured people, answering questions and fruitlessly trying to access the website. …It was unclear how many people -- if any -- were able to enroll at Thursday's event."

Polls Find Growing Frustration

If you believe the latest polls, public opinion has swung strongly against the Republican Party in recent days. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds that 53% of the public now blames congressional Republicans for the government shutdown. Just 31% blame President Obama.

Seventy percent of Americans disapprove of the job performance of congressional Republicans, and when asked about their preference for control of Congress after the next election, 47% want Democrats to control Congress, while just 39% prefer Republicans.

In addition, 60% said they would vote to fire every member of Congress if they had the option of doing so. I suspect some of you share that sentiment.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has some problems. It oversampled Democrats, Obama voters and government workers -- all groups likely to skew its results to the left. Having said that, the latest Gallup poll found the GOP's favorability rating falling to a new record low of just 28%. The Gallup poll also found that "government dysfunction" had replaced the economy as the most pressing problem facing America.