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What Good Can Come of the Shutdown?

The partial government shutdown has not gone as planned for President Obama and Democrats in the Senate. Generals usually refight the last war, and politicians tend to view each legislative battle or election through the prism of the past. Thus did conventional wisdom posit that Republicans in Congress would get hammered by the public for making funding of the government conditional on Obama’s agreeing to certain public-policy demands, just as Newt Gingrich and the GOP Congress in 1995–96 were blamed for that shutdown. This has not been the case this time around. A new CNN poll found that while 63 percent of the American people blame the Republicans in Congress for the shutdown, 58 percent blame the Democrats, within the margin of error. By contrast, in the government shutdown of December 1995, respondents blamed Republicans by a two-to-one margin. In a new Pew Research survey, 44 percent said Republicans should give in and end the shutdown without demanding changes to Obamacare, while 42 percent said Obama should agree to changes in the Affordable Care Act — essentially a jump ball. All this should encourage conservatives in Congress to hold firm and not blink in the face of media and partisan criticism. We now enter the end game as Congress wrestles with how to increase the federal government’s borrowing authority after October 17. The most immediate imperative is for Republicans in Congress to give social conservatives a stake in this fight. They should do this by reinstating the conscience clause included in the original continuing resolution; this exempted religious charities (such as Catholic and Evangelical colleges, hospitals, and inner-city ministries helping the poor) from the Obamacare mandate to cover health-care services that many find morally objectionable, such as abortifacients. They should also reinsert the provision that would make funding of the government conditional on reaffirming the Hyde Amendment and ending all subsidies for the performance of elective abortions under Obamacare. There are also numerous direct and indirect taxpayer subsidies of abortion contained in Obamacare, not least of which are government-mandated abortion surcharges on policyholders who purchase policies on the health-care exchanges. According to a recent analysis by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, these subsidies, when combined with Medicaid expansion in states such as California and New York that cover elective abortions, will lead to as many as 111,500 additional abortions in the United States that are paid for with tax dollars. These subsidies should be eliminated by attaching language to any legislation that funds the government. Both the conscience clause and the reaffirmation of the Hyde Amendment were in the first CR passed by the House, before the beginning of the fiscal year. After the Senate stripped them out, they have inexplicably never been added to any subsequent continuing resolution. This oversight should be fixed immediately. The First Amendment is not open for negotiation. Evangelical Christians and faithful Catholics should not be persecuted by their own government with their tax dollars, forced to pay for services that many consider to be the taking of an innocent human life. That has never been the case in U.S. history, and certainly not since the Hyde Amendment was adopted by Congress in 1976. If Congress will not stand up for religious freedom now, when will it? Finally, Congress should hold firm on delaying or defunding as many provisions of Obamacare as possible within the context of any legislation that funds or increases the borrowing authority of the federal government. We cannot afford Obamacare. This is not just a fiscal issue. It is a moral issue, and Congress should say so without apology.

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