‘Selective shutdown’ of unpopular government programs can be GOP winner

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‘Selective shutdown” is a term the Republicans need to embrace and the public needs to understand.

Within a few weeks, the vast gap between President Barack Obama’s spending objectives and the House Republicans’ agenda of fiscal restraint can become obvious. Compromise between the two will not really be possible.

The president’s attachment to Obamacare and to the EPA’s massive power grab via administrative cap-and-trade is too deep for him to give them away, while the consequences of both programs’ continuation are too devastating to the economy for House Speaker John Boehner to allow either initiative or spending generally to continue on their current paths.

The GOP can defund Obamacare and the EPA’s power grab simply by refusing to appropriate money for either effort. The House can indeed “just say no.”

The president will try to save his priorities from the chopping block by holding the rest of the federal government hostage.

Thus, Boehner and his three key allies — House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rodgers — need to lay out now and explain in detail exactly what will happen over the next nine months.

The key operations of the government that should continue without interruption — defense spending, Social Security and Medicare payments, and any other “must-fund” operation — should be moved through the budget and appropriations process quickly and be in the Senate’s hands long before an impasse with the president over the other items becomes unavoidable.

Boehner needs to explain now that, absent the president’s embrace of the necessary fiscal restraint, the repeal of Obamacare and a reining in of the EPA, the non-necessary functions of the federal government will be closing down in the fall.

Boehner needs to start talking now about the “selective shutdown” of the federal government that is ahead if the president refuses to listen to the verdict of the voters rendered in November.

At the same time, Boehner and his allies have to reassure Americans and especially senior citizens that they have provided the Senate with the bills necessary to fund Social Security, Medicare and defense, but that the president is holding these appropriations hostage in order to defend Obamacare and the bureaucrats at the EPA.

Again and again and again, Boehner and his team must make this reality clear: The looming shutdown of the government need only be selective and that it, too, could be avoided if the president would only do what the voters demanded he do.

Obama and his faithful allies, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, will repeat all the talking points from the Clinton-Gingrich era, but then the GOP got worked and was flat-footed, ill-prepared and without alternative means of communicating with the public about the issues and the stakes involved for the future of the country.

Forewarned is forearmed, and if the public is briefed again and again on the GOP’s intention to keep the crucial parts of the government running, while allowing the shutdown of the EPA, the Departments of Education, Labor and Interior and various parts of Health and Human Services (not Medicare, not the center for Disease Control, not the Food and Drug Administration) the public will not only support the move, they will cheer it.

The key, as always, is preparation of the political battlefield now. The sooner the lines over spending are drawn and the genuine disagreements laid out, the sooner the public can weigh in.

Examiner columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.

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