Several Republicans, most prominently a few 2016 presidential candidates, are threatening to shutdown the federal government unless President Obama agrees to defund Obamacare. But Obama would never sign a bill to defund Obamacare. And Republicans know it. But they have to pretend they don't know it -- or that they just have a better way to do it -- for the sake of conservative activists who are in denial about it.
The choreographed defund-or-shutdown fight is happening both publicly and behind closed doors. "A shutdown? It’s not happening, it’s really not, but I guess you won’t hear people say that out loud, including me," a senior House Republican tells The National Review's Robert Costa. "No one, you see, wants to be 'out-toughed' on Obamacare. We’re out here talking about repeal everyday. But the speaker and everybody else here know that the Senate votes, unfortunately, will never be there to pass a continuing resolution to defund Obamacare." So House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are doing "a wink-wink kabuki dance of the highest order," Costa writes, to avoid alienating conservative lawmakers without giving them power over fiscal negotiations.
Before Congress left for August recess, Boehner told House Republicans in a closed-door meeting that "the best shot" to kill Obamacare was with votes attacking smaller parts of the bill like the individual mandate. A GOP leadership aide tells Costa that "no one seems to able to explain how we win a shutdown fight." They don't want to use the debt limit to try to force Obama to defund Obamacare, either.