Is Tim Huelskamp backing off his hostage-taking strategy to thwart Obamacare?

When you have nothing to lose, you’ll tend to act more freely.

That concept helped Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp mount a strident campaign against the implementation of Obamacare earlier this year, leading to the half-month government shutdown in October.

Huelskamp is politically insulated in a congressional district covering huge swaths of western Kansas, where his brand of far-right conservatism is welcomed, or at least not discouraged. That gives him great power among tea partiers in Congress, where they were cheered by their constituents for putting the national economy and a functioning government in peril in order to score ideological points against a president they can’t stand.

The shutdown gave Huelskamp the biggest platform in his short political life; it allowed a man previously without much importance inside the Washington, D.C., beltway to show up on cable television frequently during the 17-day government impasse, although the results weren’t always good.

The “resolution” to the shutdown wasn’t a long-term solution of any kind; it simply kicked the can down the road until the next debt-ceiling crisis in January.

But Huelskamp is now telling his followers that although he still doesn’t like Obamacare, he might not be willing to shut the government down again to hammer home the point.

Politico followed Huelskamp in a western Kansas roadshow, where he promised that he will still try and repeal President Barack Obama’s health-care plan, which has gotten off to a miserable start. But Huelskamp seemed to indicate that there’s not much will to push the next round of debt-ceiling negotiations off the cliff into another shutdown.

“Generally, I don’t think there’s enough during Christmastime to do that,” he told Politico. “It depends what happens to the individual mandate. If things continue to go south on Obamacare, maybe [Republicans will] be enlivened to continue the battle.”

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