September 25, 2013

As Ted Cruz’s filibuster continues to drone on this morning, two new pieces of news illustrate yet again the degree to which the GOP’s continuing crusade against Obamacare is unmoored from basic constructive governing norms and is completely disconnected with the American people’s conception of the same.

First, there’s the news that the Obama administration has released a new report showing premium prices are estimated to be lower than expected in three dozen states (more on that soon). And second, a new New York Times/CBS News poll signals Republicans are now on very dangerous ground as the shutdown fight proceeds. It finds:

* Eighty percent of Americans, including 82 percent of independents and 75 percent of Republicans, say threatening a government shutdown is not an acceptable way to negotiate.

* Americans say overwhelmingly that Republicans are not trying to work with Obama by 70-23. By contrast, 51 percent say Obama is trying to work with Republicans.

Republicans are rapidly distancing themselves from Cruz’s tactics. But it needs to be reiterated, as Jonathan Bernstein spelled out yesterday, that in broad terms, Cruz’s stance on Obamacare is not fundamentally different from the overall GOP stance on Obamacare. House Republicans have endorsed defunding Obamacare and have even voted only to keep the government open if Obama and Dems unwind the Affordable Care Act. It remains to be seen whether House Republicans will actually pass something funding the government that doesn’t include a defunding of Obamacare.

Which is to say that, for all the criticism of Cruz, the Republican posture is opposed by 80 percent of Americans, who don’t see it as a fundamentally acceptable way of governing.

What’s more, Republicans are actively committed to undermining Obamacare through a tactic that risks wreaking far more destruction and havoc than anything Cruz is doing. They are currently drawing up a wish list of demands they will make in exchange for raising the debt limit — including the delay of Obamcare — which is to say, they are going to demand extensive concessions in exchange for not destroying the economy. If Americans don’t view threatening a government shutdown as a legitimate way to negotiate, imagine how they will react if we breach the debt ceiling and the economy crashes, all because of the GOP drive to delay a law that has survived a national election and a Supreme Court challenge?

Republicans have tried to make the case to conservatives that they only disagree with the Cruz brigade over tactics but not over the goal of defunding the Affordable Care Act and undermining it wherever possible. And that’s true! Republicans continue to deny constituents help with the law and won’t participate in bipartisan fixes to it. They continue to refuse to acknowledge any good news about it — as will become clearer today as they respond to the news about premiums — making normal policy debate about its tradeoffs impossible.

For all the mockery of Cruz, Republicans continue to shape their stance on Obamacare around the perceived need to placate and pander to the wing of the party that remains committed to a Total War posture against the law, one that makes constructive governing impossible and is fundamentally at odds with the American mainstream.

* MORE GOOD NEWS FOR OBAMACARE: The Obama administration releases a comprehensive look at premiums in 36 states where the government will run new insurance exchanges, and finds them coming in generally lower than expected. Jonathan Cohn has the must read explanation of it all, including this:

Overall, according to HHS, the premium bids are lower than government actuaries had predicted when the law first passed. That’s good news for taxpayers, because it means the subsidies will be less expensive than budget projections had suggested. It’s also good news for the Obamacare enterprise as a whole….these are real bets, from real insurers, that the insurance exchanges are going to work.

That’s key; as Paul Krugman noted recently, we’re seeing signs that the exchanges will likely induce insurers to compete agre turn the health care market into a truly functioning one within the ground rules the law sets.

Also see Kevin Drum: He highlights the key finding, which is that premiums are, and has a table laying it all out: “Premiums before tax credits will be more than 16 percent lower than projected…Tax credits will make premiums even more affordable for individuals and families.”

* REPUBLICANS STRUGGLE TO UNIFY AGAINST OBAMACARE: David Drucker reports that Senate Republicans met to try to hash out ways of unifying against Obamacare despite the ongoing rebellion on their right flank. Notably, Drucker reports that Cruz and his allies resisted suggestions that they stop attacking other Republicans and using tactics that are only making it harder on their counterparts in the House.

All of this is a reminder that the divisions among Republicans over how aggressively to confront Obamacare may prove unbridgeable — the single most important factor determining what the overarching political situation will look like this fall.

* HOW GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN FOLLIES ARE PLAYING IN STATES: The DNC is out with a new memo that rounds up local coverage of the GOP government shutdown follies across the country, and it is blisteringly tough on Republicans. There’s also a video compilation of local coverage. Beyond all this, the debt limit fiasco threatens to be even worse: if the nation defaults and the economy crashes, it’s highly likely Republicans will take the blame for it.

* OBAMA ALLIES SLAM GOP GOVERNING CHAOS: The Dem-allied Americans United for Change has released a new TV ad showing Republicans cheering after voting to cut food stamps and defund Obamacare. Dems will continue sounding the message that Republicans are fundamentally incapable of governing and that the only governing solution they are capable of uniting behind is continued austerity.

 * WHY WE’RE HEADED FOR CHAOS: Economist Jared Bernstein has a terrific piece explaining that default is looming in part because of the radicalism of the Tea Party and its outsized influence over the GOP, and just as crucially, the inability of many neutral arbiters to reckon with the ways in which this lopsided pull distorts the discourse and pulls it rightward.

As I noted here yesterday, this is likely to be particularly pronounced in the coming debt limit fight as commentators will probably fail to describe the actual GOP position in that fight forthrightly and accurately.

* A NOTE ON THE OBAMA DOCTRINE: David Sanger has a very fair look at the Obama Doctrine, and how it has evolved since the start of his presidency in ways that we are seeing tested with Syria and, soon enough, with Iran. Note in particular how his use of drones has marred his image abroad as a conciliator even as his reluctance to use force in Syria has run him into political complications at home.

* AND HERITAGE AND THE “DEATH OF GOP IDEAS”: Molly Ball has a deep dive into how the Heritage Foundation’s sponsorship of the defund-Obamacare crusade signals a larger trend: The weakening of the GOP’s “intellectual backbone,” and the degree to which “the party’s chance to retake its place as a substantive voice in American policy is in jeopardy.”

Indeed, the Obamacare debate in general — from the refusal to acknowledge good news about the law, to the efforts to deny constituents help with it, to the unwillingness to participate in bipartisan fixes to the law — has showcased the many ways in which the GOP is becoming a “post policy” party.

What else?

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.