BY ROBERT ROMANO | SEPTEMBER 18, 2013
America's grassroots awakens on Syria, Obamacare
In the face of withering public support for its agenda, the Washington, D.C. establishment was recently dealt two critical blows.
The first came when President Barack Obama asked Congress to postpone indefinitely plans for a Sept. 11 vote on military force in Syria. In his Sept. 10 speech, he began making the case for war against the Assad regime, but then placed his faith in a diplomatic solution proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Under the plan, Syria supposedly would surrender its chemical weapons stocks to the so-called "international community." No word yet on how such an agreement might be enforced.
But it is very plain that the reason for the postponement was not Putin's grand proposal per se, but the overwhelming public opposition to going to war right now. The vote was going to fail – miserably.
The second blow came as House leaders then postponed plans to vote on a continuing resolution funding the federal government for Fiscal Year 2014. Why? Likely, they didn't have the votes for that, either.
On the right, free market and limited government groups oppose any resolution that allows funding for Obamacare to go into effect. On the left, organizations oppose it because it partially rolls back defense sequestration cuts and fails to do away with nondefense cuts.
Such a situation leaves House Republican leaders in a bind. Any effort to do away fully with nondefense sequestration, as Democrats are demanding, would cost even more Republican support. It would also create yet another example where House Speaker John Boehner could only find the votes to pass a continuing resolution with Nancy Pelosi's help.
The sequester cuts to discretionary spending came about in return for the $2.1 trillion increase of the debt ceiling in August 2011.
In the meantime, Republican leaders remain opposed to any approach that would attempt to defund the health care law by attaching language directly to the continuing resolution. They fear a government shutdown.
One workaround they might attempt is an honest up-or-down vote on an amendment to the continuing resolution to defund Obamacare.
The deal would be: if conservatives can get a majority on board for defund, the House will stick with it, even if it results in a government shutdown. If not, then conservatives would be obliged to vote for the continuing resolution, even if it results in Obamacare being funded.
Such an approach however would put both the liberal and conservative wings of the GOP into tough spots. For northeastern Republicans in blue states, they would be required to openly cast votes against defunding Obamacare, which could spark primary challenges or cost them their seats in the general election.
For conservatives, losing a vote on defunding Obamacare and then subsequently voting for a continuing resolution that funds it likely would have the same result. The grassroots would be dispirited and blame them for selling out on the issue and letting the law go into effect.
Both sides of the issue might look to Colorado, where two state legislators were successfully recalled after voting to ban guns, as to what can happen when the will of the electorate is defied.
To avert these outcomes, House leadership might instead try actually attaching defunding language to the continuing resolution, and then using the ensuing government shutdown to achieve concessions. Sequester, after all, was a concession that resulted from the debt ceiling standoff. Maybe a standoff would work again.
As for Obama and his quest to go to war, he's now placed all his chips on Putin and the United Nations to resolve the crisis in Syria. If weeks and months go by and Syria has not been disarmed, more than likely the weapons will have been transferred somewhere else. Obama's policy will have failed.
That is, if the weapons have not already been transferred, as Syrian rebels are now claiming they were moved to Lebanon's Hezbollah terrorist organization. Many reports a decade ago speculated that Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons were transferred to Syria.
Assuming Obama ever gets any good intelligence on the matter, we suppose then he'll be asking for authorization to use military force in Lebanon, too. Although such an effort would appear likely to have even less support than an adventure in Syria would.
For now, expect the public's discontent with the D.C. establishment to only mount.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.