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Columns

September 30, 2013

LYONS: 'Defund' Obamacare? That's impossible

First they lie to you, and then they ask you for money.

That’s the essence of the great Tea Party/Ted Cruz crusade to “defund” Obamacare, a political and constitutional impossibility. The question was settled, probably for good, when President Obama won re-election in 2012 and Democrats kept control of the Senate.

Instead, it’s about TV face time and harvesting donations from gullible voters misled both about the Affordable Care Act itself and Sen. Cruz’s nonexistent chances of ending it.

Amid all the melodramatic TV chatter, the estimable blogger Digby puts it in terms everybody should understand. She has a friend in the insurance industry whose company has been getting thousands of calls from frightened policyholders who fear that the hullabaloo in Washington could result in their losing health coverage.

“I asked her what calmed people down,” Digby writes, “and she says she tells everyone to think about their high school civics class and remember that laws have to be passed by both houses and signed into law by the president. Without proselytizing at all, everyone immediately realizes what an absurd exercise in futility all this nonsense really is.”

A narrow Republican majority in the House can’t void the Affordable Care Act any more than 54 Senate Democrats can force everybody in Oklahoma to eat broccoli. Anybody who tells you differently is a flim-flam artist.

Such as Newt Gingrich. The presiding genius of the 1996 GOP government shutdown went on ABC’s “This Week” to deliver pseudo-historical profundity: “Under our constitutional system going all the way back to Magna Carta in 1215, the people’s house is allowed to say to the king we ain’t giving you money.”

Actually, the U.S. Constitution of 1789 makes no provision for a king. Neither, as former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich has reminded Gingrich, does it “allow a majority of the House of Representatives to repeal the law of the land by defunding it. If that were the case, no law [would be] safe.”

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