The national political war over health-care reform has lasted four years, dominated two national elections and even involved a months-long Supreme Court fight.
During those four years, the Republican Party won a couple of rounds (Scott Brown's election, the 2010 midterm results). But it lost all the others (including the legislative battle resulting in the bill becoming law in 2010, the Supreme Court upholding its constitutionality, President Obama winning re-election in 2012).
As a result, the law has marched on -- Americans have been receiving benefits, and those without health insurance began enrolling in the federal health exchanges on Tuesday.
And that's perhaps the best way to view the current federal government shutdown, which has entered its second day (and counting): It has become the GOP's last stand on health care.
"We thought it was important to stand on our principle that, since the 2010 elections, the Republicans have been clear we don't like Obamacare but never had the chance to actually vote on it," Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) told NBC's Chuck Todd.
(Democrats would counter to Huelskamp that House Republicans have held more than 40 votes since 2010 to repeal or alter the health-care law.)
"This is our hope to represent the American people in a way to make this law less onerous," Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) added to Todd.
So that's why House Republicans have demanded that the health law's defunding or delay be part of any deal to keep the government open. And that's why they'd like to tie the law to any debt-ceiling increase.
But the reason their efforts have gone nowhere -- and why they're the current underdogs in this shutdown fight -- is that Republicans control only the House of Representatives, which isn't enough in this constitutional system to enact change. Change, after all, comes when one party controls all branches of government, or when a divided government comes to an agreement via compromise. But that isn't the case now.
Consequently, Republicans have made this budget showdown their last stand in the health-care war. Every day, every hour that goes by makes it harder to rollback the law.
But not all House Republicans are on board with this House GOP strategy.
“I have very strong concerns about Obamacare and have heard from hundreds of constituents who share them, but shutting down the entire federal government and threatening our economy to make a political point is utterly ridiculous,” Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ) said.
As history teaches us, last stands often don't end in success.
First published October 2 2013, 8:44 AM