Earlier this week Sean Hannity expressed his support for Utah Senator Mike Lee's plan to hold America hostage -- unless Obamacare is defunded, Lee has threatened to block appropriations bills, resulting in at least a partial shut down of the government.
Hannity followed up yesterday by suggesting this nihilistic vision for the legislative process should be a “litmus test.” He further specified “either you Republicans get off your backside and stand as a bold contrast to Obamacare and make a courageous stand, or get out of the way and we'll primary you and we'll get rid of you.”
Rush Limbaugh joined in, telling his audience “one last chance to stop” Obamacare is the upcoming continuing resolution budget fight, making the point that Republicans “denying Obama and the Democrats” the ability to fund the government is a “crucial thing.”
Senator Lee's efforts spawned a full-fledged campaign by the conservative media. At Redstate.com, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson asked his readers to call targeted Republican senators and “ask that they sign the Mike Lee letter” which specifically states that its signers “will not support any continuing resolution or appropriations legislation that funds further implementation or enforcement of Obamacare.”
Erickson continued in his blog post: "It is important to get their signatures on that letter or we can presume they will fund Obamacare."
Conservative radio host Dana Loesch followed suit by launching a campaign targeting her home state senator Roy Blunt, demanding he too sign Lee's letter.
Fortunately for the country, some members of the Senate Republican Conference do not share the same self-flagellating desires of the conservative media.
Richard Burr of North Carolina told the Associated Press that threatening to shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded is the “the dumbest idea I've ever heard of.” He continued, “Defunding the Affordable Care Act is not achievable through shutting down the federal government. At some point you're going to open the federal government back up, and Barack Obama's going to be president, and he won't have signed this illusion of the Affordable Care Act.”
Arizona Senator John McCain previously warned his Republican colleagues “most Americans are really tired of [these] kinds of shenanigans here in Washington.”
In the House, Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a member of the Republican leadership, called the strategy being advocated by Hannity, Limbaugh, and Erickson “the political equivalent of throwing a temper tantrum.”
Senate Republicans seem to agree. By yesterday afternoon, according to Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard, 5 of the 17 of the signatories to Mike Lee's letter, Senators Ayotte, Boozman, Cornyn, Kirk, and Wicker, had dropped off.
Although this has not discouraged Erickson from continuing his campaign -- calling those in the GOP who refuse to join him “surrender monkey[s]” -- this “tantrum” will ultimately be a futile effort.
While Mike Lee might gain points in the conservative media for destructive behavior, even some of the more radical members of the GOP understand the ramifications of being blamed for a government shut down, which they surely will be if they follow this path.
Consequences be damned. Erickson has drawn a clear line in the sand, writing yesterday "[a]ny Republican who chooses to fund Obamacare should be primaried."
The conservative media seem intent on ginning up the Republican base for a losing fight. While their impact seems to have already been blunted, it sure will be a good show for the next few weeks.