WASHINGTON -- GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham joked on Tuesday that the inescapable fact that shutting down the government will not stop Obamacare was merely a "technical" detail that doesn't interest Republicans bent on a shutdown.
The irony of the ongoing debate over the threat to shut the government in order to stop the health care reform law is that because of the way Obamacare is funded, doing so will leave it largely unaffected. Most of Obamacare is funded through what's known as mandatory spending, while the House only has the power to block discretionary funding. (The Obamacare insurance subsidies are paid as refundable tax credits and the Medicaid portion is not annually appropriated, meaning that Congress can't pull funding.)
"That's a technical thing," Graham (R-S.C.) quipped when a HuffPost reporter asked if he or anybody in the Senate had told the backers of a shutdown that they can't actually block Obamacare by shutting down the government. "But yeah, like 80 percent of it is unaffected ... That seems to not resonate with anybody."
Tea party Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have been rallying their conservative base, arguing that the coming budget showdown is the last chance to stop Obamcare, though they don't acknowledge the futility.
Graham, who's been increasingly at tactical odds with his tea party compatriots, said that he agrees with their ultimate aim. "I wanna defund Obamacare. I just don't wanna cut off Social Security checks and stop paying the military," he said.
To be sure, if the government shuts down and never reopens, Obamacare would be hampered by the fact that there is no government. In previous government shutdowns, Social Security checks, funded by mandatory spending, continued to go out, though a long shutdown may hamper the process by idling workers needed to get them out the door, Politifact has previously reported.
Defaulting on the debt, however, which House Republicans and tea party senators have also threatened, would have a better chance of halting Social Security checks, as well as Medicare, Obamacare and pretty much everything else.
No less a conservative authority than Glenn Beck's website The Blaze has noted that the anti-Obamacare strategy rests on a faulty premise.