So here’s where we are:
1) The news is breaking that Obamacare is on track to hit seven million enrollments. Repeal is getting increasingly untenable. But the official House GOP position is still repeal, and there’s no indication whether Republicans will vote on any comprehensive alternative. Meanwhile, in some cases GOP candidates continue to campaign on repeal while vaguely promising some sort of alternative, or without saying where they stand on specific aspects of Obamacare, like the Medicaid expansion.
2) Paul Ryan is set to roll out his new budget today. However, all indications are that it will not contain any effort to overhaul anti-poverty programs — temporarily shelving Ryan’s vow to recast the GOP as concerned about poverty. Instead, it will double down on balancing the budget in 10 years. According to Reuters, because of slower economic growth, this could necessitate even deeper cuts to the safety net than in past budgets.
As Jonathan Chait explains, the GOP adherence to ideological safe zones — the unremitting 47 percenterism; the belief that the greatest threat to American civilization is debt Armageddon; the refusal to raise taxes — combine to make developing an affirmative agenda to fight poverty and boost economic mobility impossible.
3) House Republicans still show no signs of acting on immigration. Even GOP aligned constituencies are growing increasingly convinced that, if nothing is done by the August recess, the window for action could close until 2017, depriving Republicans of their chance to engage in real policy-making to get right with Latinos. Republican leaders themselves clearly recognize the need to tackle immigration. But they are unwilling to put forth even their own proposals to do so.
The basic GOP gamble is that Obamacare is so plainly a disaster that Republicans cannot fail to win big this fall by campaigning against it, and that taking any policy risks could upset this dynamic. But they appear to have not even considered the possibility that the law could work tolerably over time.
Yet new polling from WaPo/ABC and Kaiser suggest there’s at least a chance the law could recede as a public concern. And as Jonathan Cohn explains, there are now reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the law’s prospects, even as there simply isn’t any policy space for a Republican alternative that would accomplish a fraction of what Obamacare is currently on track to accomplish. Some Republicans worry that offering an alternative would itself imperil their ability to profit from the Obamacare disaster. That leaves Republicans pretty much stuck advocating for going back to the old system.
Do Republicans have a Plan B?
Of course, it’s true that, even if Obamacare were to improve its standing, Republicans would probably still have at least a 50-50 chance of winning the Senate. The underlying situation is terrible for Dems, and Obama’s approval ratings remain in the toilet (which is probably due to the anemic recovery). So maybe they don’t need a Plan B. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
* OBAMACARE ENROLLMENTS TO HIT SEVEN MILLION? The Associated Press scoops:
Beating expectations, President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul was on track to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance on deadline day Monday, government officials told The Associated Press. The 7 million target, thought to be out of reach by most experts, was in sight on a day that saw surging consumer interest as well as vexing computer glitches that slowed sign-ups on the HealthCare.gov website.
This will lead to very good headlines for the law, and suggests demand for Obamacare was strong enough to enable it to overcome its disastrous rollout. But remember, there are still plenty of unknowns. The law’s long term prospects, which turn on the demographic mix and on how the marketplaces function in individual states.
* THE BIG PICTURE ON OBAMACARE: McClatchy has a nice piece summing it up:
President Barack Obama’s health care law, despite a rocky rollout and determined opposition from critics, already has spurred the largest expansion in health coverage in America in half a century, national surveys and enrollment data show.
Republicans on the twitters are already attacking the new enrollment figures by arguing the mandate has forced people into Obamacare, which only confirms that their default position has long been that the law cannot succeed by definition.
* YET ANOTHER OBAMACARE VICTIM AD: Americans for Prosperity is up with yet another spot featuring an Obamacare victim, this time an Arkansas farmer who claims his plan was cancelled, and holds Dem Senator Mark Pryor responsible for it. In Arkansas, however, the cancellation of plans has been deferred for years. And so, the man claims: “We’ve yet to receive anything telling us our plan is going to be extended.”
Notably, the ad leaves vague whether his plan was actually cancelled or not. Confusion and disruption themselves are the hardships endured.
* YET ANOTHER OBAMACARE VICTIM AD DEBUNKED: Meanwhile, FactCheck.org takes apart the latest Americans for Prosperity ad in Michigan against Dem Gary Peters, which features a mother of five who says her new plan under Obamacare is unaffordable and claims the law is “destroying the middle class:”
In fact, her case is an example of how middle-class families can benefit from the law — if they choose to do so…It turns out that Wendt found a cheaper, subsidized plan on the exchange, but declined to accept it because she did not want her children on the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
As AFP’s ads have come under scrutiny, the victim tales have essentially withered away and disappeared.
* PAUL RYAN BUDGET TO EXPAND MEDICARE PLAN: The Wall Street Journal reports that the new Ryan budget is likely to include a proposal to offer a choice to those 55 and younger to opt for private plans rather than traditional Medicare, in spite of worry that it could create political problems for moderate Republicans. Also, note this from GOP Rep. Tom Cole:
“We still have a ways to go to get to 218,” he said — the votes needed to pass the budget.
* AND HERE’S WHY DEMS FACE A BRUTAL MIDTERM ELECTION: John Harwood has a great piece explaining the real reasons Dems face such a difficult situation in the midterms: The emerging Dem coalition is increasingly reliant on women, young voters and minorities, who tend to not show up in the off years:
Over the last four midterm elections, turnout by all three groups fell more from the previous presidential race than turnout by Republican-leaning men, whites and those over 65. Young voters have abandoned the midterm electorate at more than twice the rate of seniors. Hispanics, who favored Mr. Obama by a margin of 44 percentage points, have voted at just two-thirds the rate of whites.
If Dems have an Obamacare problem, it’s largely that the law motivates the GOP base far more than the Dem one, making this basic dynamic worse. Hence the focus on the minimum wage, equal pay, and immigration, to get out these core groups. Of course, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that Dems are defending seven Senate seats in states carried by Mitt Romney.