POLITICS

Matt Bevin Attacks Mitch McConnell On Obamacare, Aligns Himself With Senate Hostage Takers

08/14/2013 05:06 pm ET | Updated Aug 15, 2013

In recent days, when life whipped the Senate minority leader with its cat-of-nine-tails, somewhere between three and four of those tails left marks that looked like the word "Obamacare."

In the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is attempting to straddle the line between approving of the plan hatched by some of his colleagues to force the defunding of Obamacare with a government shutdown threat, and supporting colleagues who have deemed that plan politically dangerous. And on YouTube, there's Matt Bevin:

Bevin aligning himself with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are the easy points on the board to pick up. There's a little clever fudging, however, over Bevin's demand to "start voting in the U.S. Senate to kill it by defunding it."

How, exactly, would McConnell do that? At the moment, support for Lee's plan to stage a government shutdown over the matter has only waned. McConnell's position on the matter is the more realistic talking point that some of his colleagues have also voiced: “I’m for stopping Obamacare, but shutting down the government will not stop Obamacare.” And the new, new thing in conservative circles isn't "defunding" Obamacare, it's "delaying" Obamacare. It's also essentially a non-starter.

Now, could McConnell stand on his head or wave his arms around or cloak himself in fire and yawp about how much he hates Obamacare? Sure. But practically speaking, if you swapped in Bevin for McConnell right now, he'd be one more potential joiner in an effort to stage a government shutdown that doesn't have a lot of support and won't accomplish much.

But let's face it, this isn't about practicality, this is about flexing partisan muscles. Bevin is free to do so and McConnell is stuck, at least for now. As Greg Sargent notes:

At some point, McConnell will probably have to take a position on this dispute. Presumably, McConnell knows the idea is dangerous and insane, as GOP leaders seem to have concluded on the House side (which is why they are furiously sending out signals that the idea is a nonstarter, while mostly refraining from saying so on the record). McConnell is facing a primary challenge, and conservative groups are standing by without taking sides, tacitly threatening to back McConnell’s challenger if he proves himself to be weak-kneed in the coming confrontations this fall. So McConnell will probably try to refrain from taking a stand in the argument until he absolutely has to.

Of course, the real madness comes later, when Obamacare gets knit up in the next round of Debt Ceiling Apocalypto, which Jonathan Chait has detailed. By the way, as Katrina Trinko reported, Bevin plans to attack McConnell by pointing out "how, over the past 13 years, he has nine times voted to hike the debt ceiling." That's dating back to the period when the debt ceiling was raised because everyone recognized it as the responsible thing to do. Bevin is the type who flat out doesn't believe that courting -- or even causing -- a default is a bad thing. He, unlike McConnell, has that luxury.

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