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Freedomworks, one of those astroturf groups birthed by the Koch billions, wants good little Tea Partiers to lobby their Representatives to shut down the government. Or defund Obamacare. Whichever happens first.

Of course, nobody’s going to defund Obamacare. A majority of us elected President Obama partly on the basis of his promise to reform healthcare delivery. He did. His reform is now the law of the land and it’ll stay that way.  Which means that the GOPers supporting this drive are simply aiming to shut down the government. The strategy is simple:

The Continuing Resolution (CR) that allows funding for the federal government expires on September 30th and must be renewed in order for the doors to stay open in Washington. The CR is the best chance we will get to withdraw funds from ObamaCare. This can be done by attaching bills by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) or Congressman Tom Graves (R-GA) to the CR, which will totally defund ObamaCare.

But for the Cruz/Graves effort to have teeth, Republicans in both chambers of Congress must all be committed to absolutely refusing to vote for any spending bill that contains funding for ObamaCare.  Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) are leading the charge to get their colleagues to commit to this approach, by putting their signatures to a letter affirming that they will refuse to vote for a CR that contains ObamaCare funding.

Actually, shutting down the government wouldn’t actually do much of anything to affect Obamacare, but it would affect lots of Americans in very unpleasant ways. While the exact consequences are hard to predict, there’s no doubt they would be unpleasant in the extreme. When the GOP last tried this in 1995-96 numerous services were impacted:

–Over 1,000,000 federal employees were sent home during the combined 1995-96 shutdowns. Major federal work force furloughs occurred in of the Department of Education, the Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Social Security Administration, to name a few.

–National museums and monuments closed down, resulting in an estimated loss of 2 million visitors.

–368 National Park Service sites also closed, losing 7 million visitors and around $14.2 million per day in tourism revenue.

–20,000-30,000 foreign visa applications per day went unprocessed, as did an estimated total of 200,000 U.S. passport applications.

–Health, welfare, finance, and travel services for veterans were restricted.

–New Medicare applicants were turned away, and new patients at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center were not accepted.

–Furloughs at the Centers for Disease Control resulted in limited information regarding the spread of contagious diseases.

–Over 3,500 bankruptcy cases were suspended.

–Federal agencies managing over 20% over the total number of government contracts were affected.

The total cost to the taxpayer for the 1995-96 shutdowns was $1.25 billion. This sum reflects the straight-up  government costs; there would have been additional costs incurred in the private sector by government contractors as well as ripple effects elsewhere in the economy. A steep price tag to achieve little or nothing, especially given that the GOPers  pushing this idea harp constantly about wasteful government spending. Nor should you forget that this stunt would be enacted against the backdrop of economic harm already effected by the GOP sequester.

Nevertheless, almost every member of the Missouri GOP congressional delegation has signed on to co-sponsor either the Cruz (Senate) or Graves (House) legislation. The only exception is Sam Graves (not the Graves behind the bill) who, nevertheless, signed the Meadows letter, promising to vote to hold government hostage to his desire to do away with Obamacare. Newbie Jason Smith (R-8) is really gung-ho, both signing the letter and co-sponsoring the Graves bill.

Now just let me add that not even Republicans are united behind this exercise in wild-eyed, radical stupidity. The consensus of opinion right now is that the GOP can’t muster a united majority to support the shut-down. Nor do the defund Obamacare extremists have public support. A new poll out today shows that 57% of Americans oppose defunding Obamacare. This gives you an idea about how really special our Missouri Republicans are.

*Slightly edited.