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January 31, 2014 10:03 AM Reasons to Just Say No

By Ed Kilgore

Today’s Beltway buzz, it seems, will mostly be about reactions to the fruits of the House GOP’s latest retreat, focused on plotting strategy for the rest of this election year. The greatest attention, of course, is being devoted to the much-awaited, jesuitically-drafted “principles on immigration,” which appear to have, at least temporarily, revived hopes of enactment of reform legislation this year, though it’s still difficult to figure out how, mechanically, it would happen.

We’ll hear Republicans arguing over the “principles” all weekend.

But something that interests me is the strategic argument that came out of the retreat about the political value of action and reaction on immigration and other subjects. It isn’t breaking down neatly. Here’s Ted Cruz (who of course is an expert on House GOP politics, since he interferes in it regularly) telling Breitbart.com the House leadership is violating its own rule that It’s All About Obamacare:

Right now, Republican leadership in both chambers is aggressively urging members to stand down on virtually every front: on the continuing resolution, on the budget, on the farm bill, on the debt ceiling….
They may or may not be right, but their argument is that we should focus exclusively on Obamacare and on jobs. In that context, why on earth would the House dive into immigration right now? It makes no sense, unless you’re Harry Reid. Republicans are poised for an historic election this fall—a conservative tidal wave much like 2010. The biggest thing we could do to mess that up would be if the House passed an amnesty bill—or any bill perceived as an amnesty bill—that demoralized voters going into November. Rather than responding to the big-money lobbying on K Street, we need to make sure working-class Americans show up by the millions to reject Obamacare and vote out the Democrats. Amnesty will ensure they stay home.

I’d say that’s a pretty clear vote for the “do-nothing” strategy.

But we’re also being told the lines are a little different on exactly what Republicans should do on Obamacare other than yelling about its actual problems and then making up a bunch more. This is from Jonathan Weisman and Ashley Parker’s account of the retreat for the New York Times:

On the Affordable Care Act, conservatives pushed the party to coalesce around a single alternative to the law that would come to a House vote this year. Moderates resisted that position over concern that it would open a line of Democratic attack that would deflect from what they see as the failings of the president’s health care law.

Yeah, it’s those Republican “moderates” who understand the GOP must embrace public-sector activism and stand for “something” rather than “No” who are the ones afraid to embrace an Obamacare replacement proposal. Perhaps they understand a side-by-side comparison of whatever Republicans can agree upon with Obamacare might not go all that well. In any event, it seems the GOP is moving crabwise towards an agenda based on the default position of “saying no” on everything. That should be kept in mind by those who want exceptions made for immigration or anything else.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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