A must-read report by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McIntire in Sunday’s New York Times should put to rest any lingering debate about who’s ultimately to blame for the shutdown. According to the report, a who’s who of conservative activists headed by deep-pocketed funders have planned for months to trigger a budgetary showdown as a last-gasp effort to kill off Obamacare before the American people have a chance to see its biggest benefits come online.
From the story:
Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.
Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups.
It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.
“We felt very strongly at the start of this year that the House needed to use the power of the purse,” said one coalition member, Michael A. Needham, who runs Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation. “At least at Heritage Action, we felt very strongly from the start that this was a fight that we were going to pick.”
Last week the country witnessed the fallout from that strategy: a standoff that has shuttered much of the federal bureaucracy and unsettled the nation.
To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known.
Some additional reading:
“Hidden Hand: How Heritage Action Drove DC To Shut Down,” by Zeke Miller for Time.
“Senate Conservatives Fund Roils GOP,” by Anna Palmer and Manu Raju in Politico.
“With new grass-roots muscle, Heritage Foundation stirs the base and alienates allies,” by Matea Gold and Lori Montgomery in The Washington Post.