Fox v. Fox On GOP Attempts To Defund Obamacare Through Government Shutdown

While some Fox News hosts and contributors such as Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin have supported a right-wing Republican plan to defund Obamacare by threatening a government shutdown, other Fox News contributors like Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer have criticized the idea as unworkable and “nuts.”

Republican Senator Mike Lee (UT) threatened to shut down the government in order to stop funding health care reform -- signed into law in 2010 and found to be constitutional in 2012. He proposed that Republicans refuse to vote for any continuing resolution -- a measure that continues funding the operations of the federal government until a budget and annual appropriations can be passed -- that includes funding for the continued implementation of health care reform.

Other Republicans are critical of this approach, with Senator Richard Burr (NC) calling it “the dumbest idea I've ever heard of.” Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman noted in a July 25 New York Times column that even Republican leaders now recognize that confrontations like this threat to shut down the government will “inflict substantial harm on the economy.”

Despite this, some Fox News hosts and contributors have rallied in support of the right-wing Republican brinksmanship plan. On the July 23 edition of his radio show, Fox host Sean Hannity hosted Lee and expressed support for the effort. Two days later on his radio show, Hannity called the issue a “litmus test” for the conservatism of Republicans and threatened to primary any Republican who did not support the effort.

In a July 25 RedState post, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson similarly wrote that Republicans who did not support the defunding effort should be challenged in primary elections:

Why would Republicans keep funding a law that hurts so many people and is so unpopular? Why would they do that?

Republicans in Congress have a choice this fall with the latest continuing resolution. They can choose to not include funding for the implementation of Obamacare. Negotiate everything, but make that their line in the sand. If the Democrats choose to shut down the government over an unpopular law that hurts people, it is their choice. Republicans should not fund Obamacare.

Any Republican who chooses to fund Obamacare should be primaried. The advertisements write themselves. Republicans, by voting to fund Obamacare, are putting people out of work, driving up healthcare costs, and hurting families. Republicans are not listening to voters who hate the law if they fund Obamacare.                                

Fox News contributor Sarah Palin also jumped on the government shutdown bandwagon, arguing on the July 30 edition of Hannity that using a government shutdown as leverage to defund Obamacare was “common sense.”

Other Fox News contributors have found the idea of government shutdown over health care reform to be “ludicrous” and “nuts.” On the July 30 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Jonah Goldberg said that the idea “works fantastically well for fundraising when you want to go and run in 2016 for president” but is “ludicrous” as a winning legislative strategy.

Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer called the idea “really dumb” on the July 26 edition of Special Report, and in his August 1 Washington Post column said it was “nuts,” because the effort will invariably fail and hand President Obama a victory:

The other battle is about defunding Obamacare. Led by Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, the GOP insurgents are threatening to shut down the government on Oct. 1 if the stopgap funding bill contains money for Obamacare.

This is nuts. The president will never sign a bill defunding the singular achievement of his presidency. Especially when he has control of the Senate. Especially when, though a narrow 51 percent majority of Americans disapproves of Obamacare, only 36 percent favors repeal. President Obama so knows he'll win any shutdown showdown that he's practically goading the Republicans into trying.


This is about tactics. If I thought this would work, I would support it. But I don't fancy suicide. It has a tendency to be fatal.

Similarly, Fox News contributor Karl Rove argues on Hannity July 30 that the effort was problematic because the votes could not be mustered to pass an effort to defund Obamacare and because Republicans would be blamed for the resultant shutdown.

On occasion Fox has argued with itself on obstructionist strategy. During the 2011 debate surrounding the Republican-manufactured debt ceiling crisis, some Fox News personalities supported the destructive measure, while others recognized that failing to raise the debt ceiling “would indeed be Armageddon.”