Democratic lawmakers tell The Huffington Post that they increasingly expect Republicans to try and freeze funding for the health care law. Such an attempt would face the same institutional hurdles as a straight repeal vote: a non-compliant Senate and a president wielding a veto pen. But whereas the repeal bill's death would mean -- in practical political terms -- absolutely nothing, the inability to pass an appropriations bill could have far-reaching effects.
"They are potentially setting up a situation where they will bring government, all of government, to a screeching halt," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said Wednesday. "Not because of the debt ceiling. This is beyond the debt ceiling ... If they think they are going to have the end game of their appropriations bills be that they drive health care reform into an early grave ... they are literally setting up a full stop for almost everything we will possibly do this year."
"I am real concerned," Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) said. "We do operate on yearly budgets that could exact great harm if they are dedicated to that proposition. You still have to work with the Senate. So what happens when you reach that kind of impasse? We have this gridlock ... There is no doubt in my mind that the Republican leadership ... has already charted a course. They are very disciplined and very good at what they do."
"This is only the beginning," Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said. "I'm also fearful that they are going to try and eviscerate the legislation by denying it funding [and] by harassing the administration."
"I'm very concerned," Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said. "There are a lot of things that need funding in order to be implemented ... Here is the point: these guys are serious. Give them credit. They said what they were going to do with repeal and now they are doing it ... There is no ambiguity here and anyone who doesn't see [defunding] as a deadly serious effort on the part of GOP leadership is naive."
It's pretty clear that Democrats are expecting the GOP to shut the government down. The question is what do they plan to do about it in return? It's one thing to be gravely concerned, but do they plan to fight back or give in to the Republicans? What I'm not seeing in this Sam Stein article is a vow to stand up to the Republicans and make them pay a dear political price for shutting down a government that's already on the edge of financial chaos.
There's some hope at least for Dems with a spine.
"Hopefully that will not happen," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told a gathering of new media reporters and political bloggers on Wednesday. "But we will just see how irresponsible they are ... they say they are going to hold back funding on everything. I don't know what they get at by that. But I think we would have to discreetly respond. This is what withholding funding ... would mean to you."
That's the right track, but they need to be putting out this message now, not wait for March. Make it clear that this is what the GOP plans to take away from Americans and pound them with it.