The two big political news stories of the moment — the new Paul Ryan budget, and the successful attainment of seven million Obamacare signups — have the potential to reshape, at least to some degree, the battle for the Senate.
By my count, eight House Republicans are currently running for Senate — and will likely have the Ryan budget hanging around their necks, if and when they support it, and if Dems are then able to make it a liability for them.
The DSCC is hoping to use the Ryan budget to amplify its ongoing effort to tie GOP candidates to the Koch brothers, by labeling the Ryan blueprint the “Koch Budget.” The DSCC will be sending state-targeted releases out today hitting all the GOP Senate candidates for supporting a budget that is “bought and paid for by Charles and David Koch,” and “forces seniors to pay more while providing tax breaks for billionaires like the Kochs.” The release says:
The Koch brothers are spending millions across the country each month, more than $30 million so far this cycle, to buy themselves a U.S. Senate that supports a budget that benefits billionaires like the Kochs and forces seniors to foot the bill. Across the country, GOP Senate candidates support a “Koch Budget” that is bought and paid for by Charles and David Koch and would force over 45 million seniors to choose between traditional Medicare and a voucher program in order to provide tax breaks for billionaires.
House Republicans running for Senate include: Tom Cotton against Senator Mark Pryor; Bill Cassidy against Senator Mary Landrieu, Cory Gardner against Senator Mark Udall; Steve Daines against appointed Senator John Walsh; Shelley Moore Capito for the open Dem seat in West Virginia; and Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, and Jack Kingston vying to face Michelle Nunn in Georgia. So we may end up with House Republicans who have supported the Ryan budget as the Senate nominees in six states.
The Ryan budget’s deep cuts to the safety net and other programs (such as Pell Grants and education and job training), and its transformation of Medicare, are perhaps best summarized by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Bob Greenstein, who describes his blueprint as a “path to adversity” for “tens of millions” that “claims to boost opportunity and reduce poverty while flagrantly doing the reverse.” Greenstein concludes: “Despite Chairman Ryan’s rhetoric on fighting poverty and boosting opportunity, no fair-minded observer can claim that his proposals actually reflect those priorities — or sugarcoat their harsh impact on tens of millions of low- and moderate-income Americans.”
As Jonathan Weisman puts it, the Ryan budget is basically a “political manifesto” designed to satisfy conservative House members who “demanded a document they could take to their strongly Republican districts.” But if Dems have their way, they will be able to use it in statewide races, where the electorate may be somewhat more diverse, to galvanize core supporters and draw a sharp economic contrast in the eyes of swing constituencies.
The Dem effort to tie the Ryan budget to the Koch brothers is another reminder that the Dem approach is not simply about tarring Republicans with faceless plutocrats. Rather, it’s all about dramatizing GOP policy priorities, which are animated by a continuing obsession with 47 percenterism and unremitting hostility to government and the safety net that will hurt working and middle class Americans. The argument is that GOP priorities would set back efforts to increase economic mobility and protect ordinary Americans from economic harm, while exacerbating an economic status quo that is rigged against them and for the one percent. No question, the map for Dems is so daunting that nothing may be enough to stave off major losses. But the Ryan blueprint could help Dems make their central argument.
* DEMS WILL CONTRAST OBAMACARE WITH RYAN BUDGET: Meanwhile, it’s good to hear, via the New York Times, that Congressional Dems who had been running scared over Obamacare now think the seven million enrollments allow them to attack Republicans more directly on the consequences of repeal and contrast the law’s expansion of coverage with Paul Ryan’s proposed deep cuts to the safety net. However:
“I never said that we would run on it,” Ms. Pelosi said in an interview. “That wasn’t why we passed it. But we are not running away from it.” In the end, she said, “elections are always about jobs and the economy.”
Dems have an opening to hit Republicans hard over the consequences of repeal, but that is more about fighting the issue to a draw and broadening out these races to other issues, particularly the Ryan budget and pocketbook issues like the minimum wage.
* SENATE REPUBLICANS WORRY ABOUT GOP’S OBAMACARE OBSESSION: The Hill reports that GOP Senators are increasingly worried that the party’s single-minded obsession with Obamacare won’t be enough in 2014. Here’s Senator Dean Heller, who has criticized the House GOP for failing to extend unemployment benefits, even as it continues to push for repeal:
“It’s my opinion that the Affordable Care Act is going to play in this election, but I don’t think it’s the main issue. I think the main issue is going to be the economy and jobs. If we have solutions and answers on the economy and jobs, I think that the Affordable Care Act will take a back seat to it. If we think we’re going to win or lose the majority based on one single piece of legislation … I think we’re mistaken.”
Republicans have adopted a strategy of doing little in the way of policy because it could upset a dynamic in which Obamacare alone will supposedly deliver a glorious victory, with no indication that they even considered the possibility that it could work out tolerably well and recede as an issue.
* OBAMACARE GETS BIG HEADLINES: Mike Allen summarizes the headlines that greeted the health law’s successful achievement of seven million signups:
USA Today cover, below fold: “Health care’s comeback kid: Obama exults in 7M enrollment mark” …
WashPost, top of col. 1: “7.1 million sign up for health plan by deadline: Late surge meets original forecast, defies more recent skepticism” …
NYT A1: “Obama Claims Victory in Push For Insurance” …
L.A. Times 2-col. lead: “Health law overcomes big hurdle: The Affordable Care Act enrolls 7.1 million; the GOP, whose base is less likely to benefit, remains opposed.”
I doubt this will be enough to meaningfully shift opinion on the law, but it’s plausible that it will now fade from the headlines. Not that this will put the slightest dent in GOP certainty that the health law alone will deliver he Senate.
* WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT NUMBERS? Glenn Kessler has a wonky and useful dive into what we really know and don’t know about how many people are benefitting from Obamacare who previously weren’t. Notably, Kessler says Obama is probably on safe ground in asserting that 7.1 million people “signed up” for private insurance under the law, though many unknowns remain, such as how many were previously insured and how many paid premiums.
I would only add that — all the spin aside — enrollment numbers don’t really tell us much about the law’s long term prospects, which will turn heavily on how dozens of individual marketplaces fare in the states.
* JINDAL TO UNVEIL “ALTERNATIVE” TO OBAMACARE: The Post scoops that Bobby Jindal, as is set to unveil a new “alternative” to Obamacare today, as part of his efforts to position himself as a 2016 presidential contender. It would repeal the law and replace it — prepare to be shocked — by longtime GOP staples like block-granting Medicaid and allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines.
“There is a void out there,” says Jindal. “I absolutely think the country deserves a debate, and if Republicans are going to succeed, we better have more than bumper stickers.” Take it as a positive that Republicans increasingly realize repeal alone is a nonstarter and that they need to be seen offering alternatives.
* MINIMUM WAGE AS MOTIVATOR OF VOTING: Obamacare foes on twitter are already very excited about the new Quinnipiac poll finding that approval of the health law is at 41-55, and that 40 percent say they’re less likely to vote for a candidate who supports it. But the poll didn’t test repeal — the actual GOP stance — and it also finds that 50 percent are more inclined to vote for a candidate who supports the minimum wage hike, which Dems will campaign on this year.
* WHY REPUBLICANS WON’T SUPPORT IMMIGRATION REFORM: Another interesting tidbit from the new Quinnipiac poll: While 39 percent of Americans say they are “less likely” to support a candidate who backs a path to citizenship, an overwhelming 60 percent of Republicans falls into that category.
* AND WAR OVER MEDICAID EXPANSION HEATS UP IN VIRGINIA: The standoff in Virginia continues over whether the state will adopt its own version of the Medicaid expansion, with Governor Terry McAuliffe (who campaigned on the idea and won) and state Democrats continuing to insist they will not support any state budget that doesn’t include one. Conservatives appear equally adamant in opposition, and the standoff could produce a government shutdown.
Achieving the Medicaid expansion in Virginia would expand coverage to as many as 400,000 people and constitute a significant victory for Obamacare.