Report: GOP Preparing to “hold government financing hostage” to gut Obama programs’ funding (UPDATED)

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As this point you may as well call it “election nullification” because the scope of this is unprecedented — and if this works it will indeed set a new precedent:

Congressional Republicans are moving to gut many of President Obama’s top priorities with the sharpest spending cuts in a generation and a new push to hold government financing hostage unless the president’s signature health care law is stripped of money this fall.

As Mr. Obama prepares to deliver a major economic address on Wednesday in Illinois, Republicans in Washington are delivering blow after blow to programs he will promote as vital to a more robust economic recovery and a firmer economic future — from spending on infrastructure and health care to beefing up regulatory agencies. While Mr. Obama would like to keep the economic conversation lofty, his adversaries in Congress are already fighting in the trenches.

On Tuesday, a House Appropriations subcommittee formally drafted legislation that would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 34 percent and eliminate his newly announced greenhouse gas regulations. The bill cuts financing for the national endowments for the arts and the humanities in half and the Fish and Wildlife Service by 27 percent.

For the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, Mr. Obama requested nearly $3 billion for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs — a mainstay of his economic agenda since he was first elected. The House approved $826 million. Senate Democrats want to give $380 million to ARPA-E, an advanced research program for energy. The House allocated $70 million.

A House bill to finance labor and health programs, expected to be unveiled Wednesday, makes good on Republican threats to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The labor and health measure — for years the most contentious spending bill — will protect some of the White House’s priorities, like Head Start, special education and the National Institutes of Health, but to do so education grants for poor students will be cut by 16 percent and the Labor Department by 13 percent, according to House Republican aides.

“These are tough bills,” acknowledged Representative Harold Rogers, the Kentucky Republican who leads the House Appropriations Committee. “His priorities are going nowhere.”

If this does work, the U.S. will have a far different democratic political system than it did in previous generation. It’ll be 100 percent power politics or bring the whole house down.

Will independent voters go along with it? Already polls show Americans are increasingly fed up with the way our politics operates. NBC’s First Read:

*** Who is going to get the message? At a time when Washington is battling over immigration and student loans, bickering (once again) about the health-care law, and gearing up for another showdown over the budget and debt ceiling, the American public has a simple message: “ENOUGH!” According to our NBC/WSJ poll, a whopping 83% of adults disapprove of Congress’ job, which is an all-time high in the survey. What’s more, President Obama’s job-approval rating (45%) has dropped to its lowest level since Aug. 2011, when the debt-ceiling showdown wounded almost every Washington politician. And nearly six in 10 voters (57%) say they would vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress if they had such an option on their ballot — another all-time high. “There is a palpable unhappiness with Washington,” says NBC/WSJ co-pollster Peter Hart (D). “Outside the Beltway, voters are saying, ‘You don’t get it.’” And that’s probably the best context in which to view Obama’s hyped economic speech today in Galesburg, IL at 12:55 pm ET, as well as the Senate’s effort last week to approve of the president’s executive-branch appointments. The true political contest over the next several months might very well be: Who best gets the message that the public is sending? It explains why Obama is getting away from DC today and Friday.

Wait! There’s another problem:

*** But what happens when they can’t even agree what the message is? Yet here’s the challenge in resolving these political standoffs: Politicians and the public can’t even agree on what they see as Washington’s problem. Asked to explain their dissatisfaction with DC, respondents in the NBC/WSJ poll cite — in order — 1) partisanship and the inability of Congress to get things done, 2) the middle-class being ignored, and 3) the Obama administration’s policies and leadership. But there’s a stark political divide: Democrats and independents point to partisanship and congressional gridlock as the chief culprit, while Republicans blame the president. Still, there are signs that Republicans are shouldering more of the blame for the situation in the nation’s capital: Just 22% believe the Republican Party is interested in unifying the country in a bipartisan way, versus 45% who say the same about Obama. And 56% of Americans think that congressional Republicans are too inflexible in their dealings with the president. Yet a plurality of GOP respondents say congressional Republicans are too quick to give in to Obama. Hence the problem: “In their mind, Republicans have been too quick to give in to Obama,” says NBC/WSJ co-pollster Bill McInturff (R). “For the average Republican House member, he or she is more likely to be concerned about a primary than general election.”

The sticking point again is the GOP’s base. I’ve long contended (and contend) the base is heavily influenced by the popularity of talk radio and the conservative entertainment media which portrays any sign of compromise as “caving,” and consensus as oh, so wishy washy 20th century.

If this is where are are today — precisely what does this portend as we move further into the 21st century?

Another question: if the White House and Democrats can see this coming down the road, are they prepared to deal with it — and how?

Andrew Sullivan on the Times report cited above:

In the NYT, there’s another account of the bizarre doings of a Congress that, despite an 83 percent disapproval rating, is far more concerned about nullifying the results of the last election through sabotage and gridlock than bringing about any change other than the kind of crude austerity that has clearly failed in Europe. The legislative nihilism is matched by total disrespect for the president.

Actually, it isn’t disrespect. It’s a virtual dismissive contempt with a tone of “Yeah? Well what are you and your friends gonna do about it?” This kind of attitude may have existed throughout the history of mankind, but it has now morphed into de facto election nullification.

Talking Points’ Memo clearly feels this ain’t gonna happen:

Running out of time and options, conservatives are exploring new ways to corner Congress into shutting down the government this fall unless Obamacare is defunded. But they aren’t likely to achieve much more than giving Republican leaders heartburn.

Conservatives and right-leaning Republican lawmakers have floated the tactic for years. But now, having lost the 2012 election, and with health care reform’s major provisions set to take effect, they’ve gotten more desperate, and see it as their last chance to stop the law.

In one example of an unusual move, the advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation — Heritage Action — announced Tuesday it will grade lawmakers on the basis of whether they sign on as cosponsors of — not merely vote for — a bill by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to prohibit any funding of Obamacare in the annual budgeting process.

That legislation has won over more than just the usual suspects. Its 27 cosponsors — all Republicans — include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), both of whom are running for reelection in 2014 and are facing primary challengers from the right.

“We have one last chance to stop this if the White House won’t cooperate, and that’s through our budgeting process,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), another cosponsor, who is eager to make nice with the right after his major push for comprehensive immigration reform. “Some will say, ‘Well, that’s crazy. You are going to shut down the government over Obamacare?’ No, what’s crazy is moving forward with this thing.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) is escalating the push by circulating a letter promising not to vote to fund the government after Sept. 30 if Obamacare is not fully defunded. It has reportedly been signed by 15 Republican senators.

Defunding the government over Obamacare is, of course, a pipe dream. Democrats would block any such bill, and President Obama would veto it. And a seasoned veteran like McConnell, who was a senator through the 1990s, is well-aware of the perils of shutting down the government to extract ideological concessions from the party in power.

In fact, when asked Tuesday about the upcoming annual spending bill, McConnell, who has not signed Lee’s letter, told reporters he wants to stick by the 2011 budget agreement, which includes funding for Obamacare.

Perhaps this will be the outcome. But if a tactic like this works American democracy will never be the way again. And you’ll have to revise the old sentence “Elections have consquences.”

On the other hand, Obamacare is clearly increasingly unpopular:

A new CBS News poll finds more Americans than ever want the Affordable Care Act repealed.

According to the poll, 36 percent of Americans want Congress to expand or keep the health care law while 39 percent want Congress to repeal it – the highest percentage seen in CBS News polls. The poll also found a majority of Americans – 54 percent – disapprove of the health care law, 36 percent of Americans approve of it and 10 percent said they don’t know about it.