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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 08:20 AM ET, 06/28/2012

The Morning Plum: What the battle over Obamacare really comes down to

Whatever happens at the Supreme Court today, three things will be just as true tomorrow as they are right at this moment:

1) Americans recognize that the health care system is in serious need of reform, and they want the federal government to act. A recent Associated Press poll found that 77 percent want the President and Congress to get to work right away on a new law to replace Obamacare if it is struck down by the court — which is to say, they favor a federal response to the nation’s health care problems. The millions of uninsured aren’t going away, and health care costs will continue rising.

2) One party favors federal action to cover more people, while the other party favors a course of action that would lead to coverage for fewer people. As Ezra Klein notes today, Mitt Romney and Republicans would repeal Obamacare, “cutting loose 31 million Americans who are expected to gain coverage under the law.” More broadly, as Ezra notes, Republicans have moved away from supporting even the goal of universal coverage, something the parties used to agree upon. According to the Urban Institute, Romney’s Medicaid proposals would knock millions more out of coverage.

3) Americans support the specific reforms that Dems have been championing — and Republicans wouldn’t replace many of those reforms with anything. Republicans won the battle to define Obamacare. But poll after poll after poll has shown that the major provisions in the law have broad public support, even among Republicans.

When you cut through all the noise, what this whole fight really comes down to is this: Should the federal government take action to help bring about what Jonathan Cohn calls “economic security” to the millions of Americans who remain uninsured? Democrats say Yes. What’s the GOP answer to that question?

Republicans have argued that the individual mandate — which Dems insist is crucial to making the law’s reforms work — amounts to an unacceptable encroachment on individual liberty. The Court very well may agree with them today, and to be fair, the American people have also passed judgment against the mandate.

But even if the Court sides with the argument against the mandate, the question isn’t going away: What should the federal government do to help expand coverage to the millions of Americans who remain uninsured? Democrats have put their answer on the table. But for all practical purposes, the answer from the GOP — for now, at least — remains: Nothing. These basic facts will remain unchanged — and will continue to define a debate that must be resolved one way or the other — no matter what happens today.

* White House braces for SCOTUS ruling: Carol Lee reports that Obama has three speeches ready to go: One response if the law is struck down entirely; a second if just the mandate is overturned; and a third if it’s upheld. Also:

No matter the ruling, the White House is expected to continue highlighting provisions of the legislation that are more popular than the overall law, such as the requirements that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions or allow parents to keep their children on their plans until they are 26 years old.

As I’ve been saying here, repeal of the law could refocus the discussion on the specific reforms Dems have been championing — and on the fact that Republicans wouldn’t replace many of them with anything.

* Will SCOTUS become major issue in presidential race? Sheryl Gay Stolberg notes that four of the current justices are in their 70s, which gives rise to a question. If the health law is struck down, how aggressively will Obama make the case that electing Mitt Romney could put the court out of reach for liberals and Dems possibly for decades?

Two Democratically appointed justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, may very well retire before the end of two Romney terms. As the Alliance for Justice’s Nan Aron puts it: “This election could shape the court for decades to come.”

* Broad public support for Obama’s immigration move: More numbers from NBC/WSJ:

In the WSJ/NBC News poll, nearly every segment of the population — whites, male voters, suburbanites, rural voters, even union members — supported the move to stop the deportations. But those identifying themselves as Republicans narrowly opposed the move, 48% to 47%.

Nearly half of Republicans support it.

* Obama allies keep pounding away at Bain: The Obama-allied Priorities USA Action is up with yet another new ad in swing states hammering Romney’s business background, this time over revelations that some Bain-owned companies were driven into debt and went bankrupt, even as Bain walked away with millions.

The Obama camp won’t let up on this, and the new polls yesterday showing Obama ahead in the swing states will only persuade Obama’s advisers and allies that they were right to press the Bain attacks, and pundits who warned against them were wrong.

* Are the Bain attacks working? Doyle McManus makes the case, pivoting off yesterday’s NBC/WSJ poll:

The Obama campaign realizes it has a brief window when it can shape how people see the GOP candidate. And the strategy may be working, at least in the short run. The NBC-Journal poll found that in the 12 swing states, where the Obama campaign has been running television ads, the percentage of voters saying they have an unfavorable view of the Republican grew from 36% a month ago to 41% now.

It’s hard to see how that’s enough to confirm that the attacks are working; the NBC/WSJ poll also found that Romney remains mostly undefined in the minds of most Americans. But we’ll see.

* A tight presidential race in key swing states: A new round of Marist polls finds Obama running ahead of Romney by 47-43 in Michigan, Obama ahead 46-44 in North Carolina, which is within the margin of error, and the two tied in New Hampshire at 45 percent.

The slight North Carolina lead is interesting, because a win for Obama there could help him reach 270 despite expected Rust Belt losses. On the other hand, Obama won both Michigan and new Hampshire by double-digits in 2008, so the closeness in both underscores yet again that this is an in­cred­ibly close race nationally.

* Romney hailed individual mandate as “essential”: The Obama-allied American Bridge uncovers new video of Romney in 2006 saying this:

“With regards to the mandate, the individual responsibility program which I proposed, I was very pleased to see that the compromise from the two houses includes the personal responsibility principle. That is essential for bringing health care costs down for everyone and getting everybody the health insurance they deserve and need. “

Romney will continue to insist that he only meant the mandate is ”essential” for cost-control on the state level, while on the federal level it’s unconstitutional. Of course, Romney also claimed in 2007 that he hopes for “a nation that’s taken a mandate approach.”

* And what would Romney replace Obamacare and Dodd Frank with? As Real Clear Politics’ Erin McPike details, Romney continues to cheer for the repeal of Obamacare while refusing to say what, if anything, he’d replace it with. Note this nugget about Romney’s bashing of Wall Street reform:

He conceded that “we need good regulation and most regulations need to be updated — we’ve learned that,” but he didn’t shed any light on what that updating should entail.

So wait, the crisis did teach us that Wall Street needs to be regulated, but Romney won’t say how he’d like to see that done?

No end to it.

What else?

By  |  08:20 AM ET, 06/28/2012

 
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