December 16, 2013

The Post reports that the Senate has enough votes to clear a filibuster and move to vote on the budget later this week. With the exception of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), a moderate with no obvious primary threat, none of those voting for cloture will be up in 2014. Those who want to can therefore afford to excoriate the bill, detailing its imperfections. Yawn. What other alternative do they suggest? None that would pass. So, forget realism and forget political courage; let others carry the ball.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala) is a leading opponent of  the budget deal. (Susan Walsh / AP Photo)
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala) is a leading opponent of  the budget deal. (Susan Walsh / AP Photo)

On Sunday on ABC’s This Week Newt Gingrich was clear-headed about the vote: “If I were a very junior member, I would have complained widely and if I were speaker I’d have rammed it through.” He added, “The other giant game-changer was ObamaCare.  If you’re — if you’re a semi-rational Republican and you are sitting around, it’s one thing to say, gee, that didn’t work.  It’s another thing to have this gigantic Christmas gift show up on your doorstep.” And as for Boehner taking on the outside groups, Gingrich said succinctly that “it’s not only John Boehner who got fed up, it’s every — you know, it’s a lot of other Republicans who got fed up and worried by seeing what was a political destruction of the Republican Party.” He’s right on all counts.

As annoying as it may seem to see senators who know better vote no on immigration reform and no on this budget, they are protecting their right flank from characters far more destructive for the movement, the party and the country. They, like the budget perfectionists, will live to fight another day, when they hope to have more members.

Republicans are betting that Obamacare gets worse not better in 2014, and there is a good chance it will. Economist Michael Boskin argues:

[T]hose who expect better days ahead for the Affordable Care Act are in for a rude awakening. The shocks—economic and political—will get much worse next year and beyond. Here’s why:

The “sticker shock” that many buyers of new, ACA-compliant health plans have experienced—with premiums 30% higher, or more, than their previous coverage—has only begun. The costs borne by individuals will be even more obvious next year as more people start having to pay higher deductibles and copays.

If, as many predict, too few healthy young people sign up for insurance that is overpriced in order to subsidize older, sicker people, the insurance market will unravel in a “death spiral” of ever-higher premiums and fewer signups. The government, through taxpayer-funded “risk corridors,” is on the hook for billions of dollars of potential insurance-company losses. This will be about as politically popular as bank bailouts. . . . [And] But the far more complex back-office side of the website—where the information in their application is checked against government databases to determine the premium subsidies and prices they will be charged, and where the applications are forwarded to insurance companies—is still under construction. Be prepared for eligibility, coverage gap, billing, claims, insurer payment and patient information-protection debacles.

There is another factor working against the Dems on healthcare as well. Having in essence taken over 1/6 of the economy they now own the healthcare system, warts and all. When things go wrong people will hold them accountable, whether or not a specific feature of Obamacare is to blame. It  already happening. The AP-Gfk poll finds only 12 percent of respondents think the roll has gone well or somewhat well and only 27 percent now support the law. Moreover, when asked “do you think that any of the changes being made to your health insurance plan for 2014 are the result of the 2010 health care law, sometimes known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, or not?” 76 percent said yes. Yes. So much for blaming insurance carriers.

The budget is the opportunity for the Republicans to get out of Dodge, even if nervous conservatives need others to do it for them. Regardless, 2014 will now be the year of Obamacare reckoning, just as Gingrich and Boskin point out. Maybe that is why the GOP ends 2013 in good spirits.

 

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.