Morning Plum: Despite O’care rollout, Americans want to expand safety net

It’s been widely suggested that Obamacare’s rollout failures threaten to bring down the entire liberal project, by getting Americans to turn on the idea that activist government should — or can — solve major problems facing the country and effectively protect people from financial and medical harm.

Anything is possible over the long haul, of course, but a new poll suggests this just isn’t happening. It finds that despite deep skepticism of the law, majorities still support the idea that the federal government has a responsibility to expand health coverage to those who lack it.

Today’s New York Times/CBS News poll will get attention because it finds that a majority of the uninsured disapprove of Obamacare. That is potentially a big deal, since it could mean fewer will sign up for the exchanges over time. Overall, large numbers disapprove of Obama on the issue and say the law faces major problems and won’t make things better. But here’s what the poll also finds:

* A majority of Americans says “providing access to affordable health care coverage for all Americans is the responsibility of the federal government,” by 54-43.

* A majority says that “when individuals don’t have health insurance,” it “hurts the country,” by 70-22.

* A majority says “providing health care coverage for the poor is the responsibility of the federal government,” by 53-41.

So it appears majorities still believe government’s proper role is to expand coverage to as many people as possible, and that so doing will make the country a better place. Also:

* Only 37 percent support repealing Obamacare entirely, while 53 percent say there are good things in the law and that changes are needed to make it work better.

* Only 41 percent say the law goes too far in changing the health system, while a total of 50 percent say it doesn’t go far enough (28) or is about right (22). All this, at an absolute low point.

All these things may be related. This is admittedly speculative, but one reason majorities may be unwilling to give up on the law, even though they disapprove and are skeptical of it, may simply be that many Americans support government doing something about the problems Obamacare is designed to solve, and don’t believe there is any other set of viable solutions out there. (With single payer being a political impossibility, they’re probably right.) Indeed, an October Kaiser poll found that only 13 percent want to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a generic GOP alternative. In short: The Affordable Care Act is it.

Sure, people tell pollsters they hate generic “government.” But today’s NYT/CBS poll, and yesterday’s WaPo poll finding large majorities want government to combat inequality, suggest majorities still see a valid federal role in intervening in the economy and even expanding the safety net.

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* ON HEALTH CARE, GOP FARES WORSE THAN OBAMA: Also key from the NYT/CBS poll:

The new poll found that most Americans — 55 percent of the general public and 57 percent of the uninsured — disapprove of how President Obama is handling health care. Democrats in Congress got roughly the same rating, with 59 percent of the general public and 58 percent of the uninsured disapproving of their handling of the issue. Republicans in Congress were judged more harshly, with 73 percent of the general public and 70 percent of the uninsured disapproving of their handling of health care.

Again a sign that it remains unclear to what degree Republicans are profiting from Obamacare’s rollout, given the unpopularity of their problematic repeal stance.

* GOP DIVIDED OVER NEXT DEBT LIMIT FIGHT: The Post’s big write-up of what’s next after the budget deal tells us that Republicans are divided over whether to hold another debt ceiling standoff:

That fight would come just months before midterm congressional elections, and the GOP is deeply divided over tactics to deal with the debt, a core issue for the Republican base. Some conservatives are calling for another showdown, insisting on an additional round of spending cuts in exchange for granting the Treasury Department more borrowing authority to pay the nation’s bills.

But GOP leaders, especially in the House, have no appetite for another Washington fiscal crisis that could destroy their popularity among voters, aides said.

GOP leaders don’t want another debt limit standoff? Okay, here’s a thought. How about agreeing to raise the debt limit without any drama, even if it requires doing so with Democratic support? This isn’t complicated.

* GOP CIVIL WAR CONTINUES APACE: Related to the above: As E.J. Dionne notes in a good column, the fact that the debt ceiling fight remains a possibility shows that the battle over the future of the GOP remains far from resolved:

The governing wing won this round. But Ryan’s comments on the debt ceiling, coupled with similar remarks from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, suggest that Republicans will face another internal struggle over how much to demand in exchange for expanding the government’s borrowing authority. If Boehner cedes that decision to the party’s confrontational wing, the gains of this week will evaporate. And given the hostility among conservatives to Obama, the habit of seeing compromise as a form of capitulation could prove very hard to break.

The budget deal appeared to show that the GOP leadership can, under certain circumstances, defy the Tea Party and live to tell about it. The debt ceiling deadline — coming right in the thick of the 2014 elections — would appear to present similar circumstances.

* BUDGET DEAL DOESN’T HERALD NEW ERA OF COMPROMISE: Norm Ornstein has a good column arguing that the budget deal does not mean Congress will suddenly be functional, because the bottom line is that there is still a crucial ingredient John Boehner lacks:

The speaker’s dilemma is that he still needs the ongoing support of a sizable collection of members who do not want to swallow hard and compromise.

The budget deal showed that truly extraordinary political circumstances are necessary to get mainstream conservative Republicans to stiff arm the Tea Party, meaning an immigration reform, a farm bill, and infrastructure spending remain very far away.

* PUBLIC APPROVES OF IRAN DEAL, BUT SKEPTICISM REMAINS: A new Associated Press poll finds:

Six in 10 Americans approve of the preliminary deal between Iran and six global powers to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But that support is soft and many doubt it will lead to concrete results.

And yet, Congress still seems to want to hold a vote on imposing a new round of sanctions, despite the White House’s contention that it will imperil the prospects of long term success.

* SENATE DEMS PREPARE NEW IRAN SANCTIONS BILL:  And right on cue: National Journal reports that Senate Democrats are set to rollout a new Iran sanctions bill as early as today, and it could actually get a vote before the end of the year.

Yep: It remains more likely that Congress will vote on a political and probably counter-productive Iran bill than on extending unemployment benefits to 1.3 million Americans, at a time of unacceptably high long term unemployment.

* IS THE WAR ON TERROR WINDING DOWN? Yesterday a presidential panel declared that it’s time for Obama to dramatically scale back NSA bulk collection of private information, and Michael Crowley has a good piece putting this in the larger context, arguing that it’s yet another sign that the end may be near for the war on terror:

Most of Obama’s first term was about perpetuating — even accelerating — the war on terrorism…On every front, however, Obama is now pulling back. Without much fanfare, his renewed push to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp has gained momentum. The pace of drone strikes has plunged, and the U.S. appears to be trying harder to capture and try terrorists rather than simply kill them. American combat troops will finally leave Afghanistan in 12 months. And despite growing al-Qaeda activity in Syria and Iraq, Obama refuses to intervene in either place…Wednesday’s report, coupled with Monday’s court ruling that the NSA is violating the Constitution, could push Obama toward — or at least give him political cover for — an embrace of real NSA reform.

Let’s hope so. My guess is he will embrace virtually all the suggested reforms; it’s hard to imagine another outcome, given the big picture promises in his national security speech.

* AND OBAMA MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT DEPORTATIONS: A new Pew poll finds that by a 55-35 margin, Hispanics believe doing something to ease deportations is more important than creating a path to citizenship. This doesn’t mean they don’t support the latter — they do in massive numbers, Pew says — but rather that their immediate goal is to be able to live and work in the United States without threat of removal. With immigration reform dead for the year, Obama will have to deal with the high pace of deportations sooner or later.

What else?

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