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The tea party created an existential threat to America, not Obamacare

By pretending that the Affordable Care Act poses such an existential risk to the republic that it merits dragging our national character through the mud of a government shutdown, tea party Republicans are belittling the very real crises America soon may face.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas departs the Senate floor Sept. 30 after a late-night vote rejected budget legislation from the House that would have undermined the Affordable Care Act. Op-ed contributor Justin Holbrook writes: Tea party Republicans 'should remember that their first loyalty is not to defeating the Affordable Care Act or winning the next election. Their first loyalty is to the republic.'

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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Let me make sure I understand. The tea party Republicans in the House and Senate have determined that the Affordable Care Act is so reprehensible, so pernicious, and so destructive of American liberties that it poses an existential risk to the republic.

That’s the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from their most recent – and now disturbingly familiar – round of legislative warfare, which has now ended in a government shutdown. Why? Because tea party Republicans have been wielding nearly every existential weapon in their arsenal to blast the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) into legislative oblivion.

Shutting down the government. Threatening the full faith and credit of the United States. Anything it takes to force congressional Democrats and President Obama into white flag waving submission. Clearly for them, a law like this must be stopped at all costs. If it cannot be defeated initially, it must be stopped judicially. If the Supreme Court upholds it, Congress must repeal, derail, or defund it. This is not just a bad law – it is an evil one.

The problem is, it isn’t.

Certainly not to the majority of Democrats. And not for common-sense Republicans like me.

Common-sense Republicans understand that a law that forces Americans to opt in and pay for health-care insurance or opt out and pay a federal tax might simply be a bad law. It might skew market forces, misalign our national spending priorities, and even dress up an unconstitutional encroachment on our individual liberties in the guise of a federal tax. For common sense Republicans, none of this is good, and some of it is very bad.

But it’s not an existential threat that deserves an existential response.


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