Last summer, Senator Ted Cruz justified his drive to defund Obamacare by arguing that the law must be blocked before people began receiving its benefits, because then it would be too late — the ACA would never get repealed.
Here are two new developments that nicely illustrate the dilemma this has left behind for Republicans.
In Virginia, in an extraordinary turn of events, state Republicans have dealt a severe blow to Governor Terry McAuliffe’s push to expand Medicaid to 400,000 people in the state. They have reportedly induced a Dem state senator to resign, putting the Senate under GOP control and making it less likely that it will vote for the expansion.
Incredibly, as the Post reports, the Dem’s resignation paves the way for Republicans to appoint him to a state tobacco commission post and his daughter to a judgeship. Dems allege a straight-up swap, which Republicans deny. But either way, the episode illustrates just how far Republicans will go to prevent Obamacare from expanding affordable health coverage to hundreds of thousands in their state.
Now let’s zoom over to West Virginia. Here, the Medicaid expansion is moving forward, thanks to Dem Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. As the Charleston Gazette reports, nearly 154,000 have enrolled in either Medicaid or CHIP since last September — making the rise in enrollment the second largest of any state in the country.
The GOP establishment’s preferred Senate candidate in West Virginia, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, continues to call for Obamacare repeal. Yet the Gazette reports that she continues to decline to take a position on whether the Medicaid expansion should move forward here.
This, even though the prognosticators tell us that Republicans have a big edge in the battle for the Senate seat of retiring Jay Rockefeller. You’d think that in West Virginia, of all places, this would not be a hard question for an Obamacare-hating Republican to answer.
Yet we’ve seen this repeatedly: In states where the expansion is moving forward, GOP Senate candidates refuse to take a position on it. Even in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell spent days evading and dissembling on this question. In Arkansas, Tom Cotton is serving up word salad, and in Michigan, Terri Lynn Land is mouthing nice noises about the expansion there. In New Hampshire, Scott Brown — whose entire rationale for running is that the ACA is an abomination — has devolved into utter gibberish on it.
Maybe Ted Cruz had it right. Maybe this helps explain why Virginia Republicans are resorting to such extraordinary resistance tactics.
* MORE DOUBTS ABOUT DEATHS OF BERGDAHL’S FELLOW SOLDIERS: Reuters has fresh reporting that casts still more doubt on whether Bowe Bergdahl ever sought to link up with the Taliban and whether six soldiers died searching for him after he disappeared. Some evidence suggests the search for Bergdahl had mostly stopped by the time the six were killed, and that they had been on other missions at the time.
Notably, however, family members of the dead soldiers are divided, with one claiming her son died while on a mission to provide election security, while two others say members of the unit had told them deaths occurred during the search for him.
* LAWMAKERS CONTINUE BLASTING BERGDAHL SWAP: On the Sunday shows, the criticism kept on coming. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Intel Committee, again suggested the released Taliban Five might constitute a threat to national security, even as House Intel Committee chair Mike Rogers fretted that their release would make for good Taliban propaganda.
Reminder: On Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee will get another briefing. Hopefully more lawmakers will take a coherent stand on whether the swap was or wasn’t the right thing to do.
* TOP REPUBLICAN FLIRTS WITH IMPEACHMENT: Meanwhile, a key moment on ABC’s This Week: GOP Rep. and Intel Committee chair Mike Rogers was pressed to say whether he agrees with Lindsey Graham that impeachment should remain on the table if Obama releases more Guantanamo inmates without Congressional approval. Rogers pulled a homina homina homina.
* UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ON BALLOT IN NORTH CAROLINA: Roll Call has a good piece laying out how the North Carolina Senate race will test the potency of unemployment insurance as a political issue, now that Dem Senator Kay Hagan is attacking GOP challenger Thom Tillis over the state’s draconian UI cuts. Beyond this, the North Carolina legislature’s hard right turn ensures that this race will feature a broad contrast of ideological agendas that will be as stark as any Senate race in the country.
Meanwhile, Hagan’s campaign is finally going up on the air, so we may now see what will happen when the Dem campaign engages in earnest here.
* OBAMA HAS ACCOMPLISHED DOMESTIC AGENDA: Jonathan Chait reviews the agenda Obama laid out in his first inaugural address in 2009 and compares it to what he has accomplished since:
Those were the four major areas of domestic reform: economic recovery measures, health-care reform, a response to climate change, and education reform…With the announcement of the largest piece of his environmental program last Monday, Obama has now accomplished major policy responses on all these things. There is enormous room left to debate whether Obama’s agenda in all these areas qualifies as good or bad, but “ineffectual” seems as though it should be ruled out at this point….All of Obama’s domestic reforms involved compromises and imperfections, a quality they have in common with every major accomplishment in history. Also like the major accomplishments of the past, Obama’s will undergo future revision….What’s no longer possible is to imagine that historians will look back at Obama’s presidency and conclude not much got done.
One wonders how the Green Lanternites, who prioritize process manipulation over all else, would respond to this.
* WHAT’S DRIVING RESISTANCE TO CLIMATE ACTION: Paul Krugman asks why opponents of the EPA rules are so adamant, given that the costs aren’t all that great, and concludes:
Think about global warming from the point of view of someone who grew up taking Ayn Rand seriously, believing that the untrammeled pursuit of self-interest is always good and that government is always the problem, never the solution. Along come some scientists declaring that unrestricted pursuit of self-interest will destroy the world, and that government intervention is the only answer. It doesn’t matter how market-friendly you make the proposed intervention; this is a direct challenge to the libertarian worldview. And the natural reaction is denial — angry denial.
* AND THE ADMINISTRATION’S RATIONALE ON BERGDAHL, MADE SIMPLE: GOP Senator Saxby Chambliss, on Face the Nation yesterday:
“It’s kind of puzzling as to why they did not let us know in advance that this was going to happen.”
GOP Senator Saxby Chambliss, last week:
Chambliss said he “absolutely” would have raised “holy Hell” publicly had he gotten wind of the proposed released of five Taliban officials in a prisoner swap.