Republicans today released a letter by Rep. Mark Meadows and signed by 79 other Republican members of Congress including Reps. Rick Crawford and Tim Griffin of Arkansas, that appears to edge toward saying they might support a shutdown of government if Obamacare isn’t defunded. Here’s the letter. 

Meadows’ letter doesn’t use the phrase government shutdown but it does say, after mentioning the ills of Obamacare:


..we should continue our efforts to repeal Obamacare in its entirely this year, next year and until we are successful. However, in the meantime, there is more we can do in Congress.

Since much of the implementation of Obamacare is a function of the discretionary appropriations process, including the operation of the “mandatory spending” portion of the law, and since most of the citizens we represent believe that Obamacare should never go into effect, we urge you to affirmatively de-fund the implementation and enforcement of Obamacare in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House floor in the 113th Congress, including any continuing appropriations bill.

As many of have quoted before, James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 58 that the “power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most comoplete and effectual weapon … for obtaining a redress of every grievance….” We look forward to collaborating to defund one of the largest grievances in our time and to restore patient-centered healthcare in America.”

A number of sources (the conservative Daily Caller, for example) have characterized this and a similar Senate letter as  a vow to shut down government if the alternative is voting for a continuing budget resolution that includes Obamacare. But the letter doesn’t explicitly make that pledge. Politico frames the letter as a “slight win” for leadership that doesn’t want to be forced into a position to shut down government. The “soft” language doesn’t include an explicit threat, Politico noted, but confirms “that there is a large bloc of Republicans that remains interested in using the government funding process to cut off funding for Obamacare.” 

Freedomworks, a Tea Party/Koch-backed lobby that  is pushing the issue, is keeping a tally on supporters. It  said in this post on the developing letter:


The Continuing Resolution (CR) that allows funding for the federal government expires on September 30th and must be renewed in order for the doors to stay open in Washington. The CR is the best chance we will get to withdraw funds from ObamaCare. This can be done by attaching bills by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) or Congressman Tom Graves (R-GA) to the CR, which will totally defund ObamaCare.

This has been in the works for some time. The news in Arkansas is the signatories. They definitely include Republican Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro and, more significantly, apparently include Rep. Tim Griffin of Little Rock. Given the needs in his district and a strong residual Democratic base there, I might have thought Crawford the last to go all Tea Party. But ….. threats of primary challenges from teabaggers have forced him to toughen his positions on several issues.

Griffin has refused to directly answer questions on whether he supported a shutdown. One of his staff members objected strenuously when I characterized him as supportive of that strategy. The video at the top, made Tuesday, is the second time Democratic trackers have tried and failed to get an answer from him on camera on the question.


I’ve highlighted the signature on the Meadows letter that appears to be Griffin’s. His name doesn’t show up on the outdated shorter list of signatories maintained by Freedomworks, but it looks the same as his signature on other letters. I’ve asked his press aide for 1) confirmation of the signature and 2) whether he believes the letter supports defeat of continuing operating appropriations that include Obamacare — i.e., a government shutdown. If it’s not that, it’s hard to see the point.

UPDATE: Griffin’s press aide Matt Wolking has today provided an unequivocal response from Tim Griffin:

“I continue to be perfectly clear: First, I support getting rid of Obamacare. Second, I do not support shutting down the government.”

I have asked, but received no response to my question of what this letter is supposed to mean, then, and why a number of Republicans are reluctant to sign it.

This is how AP has now characterized the letter Griffin signed:


WASHINGTON (AP) – More than a third of House Republicans urged their leader Thursday to trigger a government shutdown rather than fund the implementation of the health care overhaul they call “Obamacare.”

I have again asked Griffin’s office for a response on what he meant by signing the lettter. Does AP have it wrong?

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee views Griffin’s signing of the petition as definitive.

In a move that will only make Congress more dysfunctional, it was revealed today that Congressman Tim Griffin signed a petition to shut down the government, scorch job growth and cripple the middle class – all in order to take away health care benefits that are lowering costs for Americans.

According to Roll Call, extremist group Heritage Action for America launched a $550,000 online ad campaign on Monday to pressure House Republicans to agree to shutdown the government over the health care debate. Rather than look out for Arkansas families and their health care benefits, Congressman Griffin followed in lockstep with Washington special interests.

I’ve sought an interpretation of how Crawford views his signature.

Call the roll. That will separate sheep and goats.

Rep. Steve Womack and Sen. John Boozman, secure in their bases and moderate in the Republican context, have made it clear for some time that government shutdown is not a smart strategy.

The final Arkansas Republican, Rep. Tom Cotton, who’s challenging Sen. Mark Pryor, has made a number of pronouncements that suggest he’s warm to shutdown as a tactic. But he’s also refused a direct answer. Mostly, he’s said if there’s a shutdown it would be President Obama’s fault, not his. Many Republicans don’t share the view that Obama, and not Republicans, would get the blame for a major government shutdown and near-certain market collapse. Today’s letter suggests Rick Crawford and Tim Griffin haven’t yet ruled out taking that risk.