Politico weighs in with a must read this morning that details the extensive planning among Republicans as to how they will go about trying to unravel Obamacare once they take over the Senate.
Republicans are eying the tactic known as “reconciliation” to force a simple majority vote to gut major components of the law, including the Medicaid expansion, subsidies that enable millions with lower incomes to get coverage, and even the individual mandate, which is central to the ACA.
There are some potential procedural obstacles, however: Repealing certain parts of it (such as the independent board that recommends ways for Medicare to save money, a.k.a. the “death panel”) could increase the deficit (something Republicans aren’t supposed to want to do) and thus be ruled “out of order” under reconciliation. And Politico also notes that some Republicans “would like to try using the procedure to repeal the whole law but worry that might be unsuccessful because repeal could increase the deficit, according to official estimates.” Good to know!
There is also the small matter that Obama will veto anything that does serious damage to the law. But Republicans are explicitly factoring this into their long term thinking:
Whether Republicans can navigate the byzantine Senate rules successfully will set a key precedent: It will show voters exactly how they would execute a strategy to gut the health care law should they take back the White House and keep control of Congress in 2016.
…the GOP moves in the next Congress could very well set precedents that will tell lawmakers just how far they can go in gutting the law through the filibuster-proof budget process; if Republicans succeed, they will have new hope if they take the White House in 2016 and don’t have to worry about a presidential veto.
And so, Republicans expect this strategy to fail in the short run. And that’s where the Supreme Court — which is set to hear the King v. Burwell challenge that could gut subsidies in three dozen states on the federal exchange — comes in. Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming spells it out as clearly as you could want:
Republicans say that, if the court rules for King, the rest of the law might be inoperable. If King loses, then the reconciliation process could very well target the subsidies.
“That alone is enough to bring down the health care law,” said Sen. John Barrasso. “We’re going to continue to try to one, repeal; two, strip out the worst parts of the law; and three, look to the courts.”
This comes after Mitch McConnell flatly suggested that SCOTUS’s coming decision on Obamacare might “take it down,” giving “us” a “mulligan” and a “do-over.” With this latest from Barrasso — the chair” of the Senate Republican Policy Committee — we now have two members of the GOP leadership looking to SCOTUS to accomplish what Republicans are failing to accomplish through legislative and political means. The question is whether this sort of talk, about a lawsuit that is supposedly all about statutory restraint and enforcing the law as written, will make Chief Justice John Roberts a bit uncomfortable about the role the SCOTUS is poised to play here.
* TORTURE REPORT SET TO LAND LIKE A BOMB: Today the Senate Intelligence Committee is set to release an executive summary of its report into Bush-era torture and rendition, and the New York Times goes deep into the ramifications it could have for domestic and international politics, with the administration warning of possible consequences (or hyping them). Dick Cheney is gearing up to defend the torture program with all he’s got:
“The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program….They deserve a lot of praise…As far as I’m concerned, they ought to be decorated, not criticized.”
Republicans — who are widely denouncing the report’s release — will similarly defend the Bush administration’s actions, and it will revive criticism on the left of the Obama administration’s failure to hold anyone accountable for them.
* POLL FINDING OF THE DAY, OBAMA DERANGEMENT EDITION: A new Bloomberg poll finds that by a large margin of 55-34, Americans believe Republicans are acting “more out of antagonism towards Obama” than out of a “deep belief in their vision for the country.” By contrast, Americans believe by 54-36 that Obama is more driven by his vision than by antagonism towards Republicans. Perhaps the American people ought to have a word with our both-sides-to-blame pundits.
On the other hand, the poll also finds the GOP’s approval rating at a five year high while Obama has hit bottom. So maybe there’s no downside in being perceived as driven by antagonism towards Obama!
* LAST MINUTE SNAG IN BUDGET TALKS: The Post has a deep dive into the last minute snags that have bedeviled efforts to fund most of the government for the next year (minus short term funding of Homeland Security, supposedly setting the stage for Republicans to fight Obama’s action on deportations next year). Dems are also wary Republicans will add a “rider” defunding that action.
But all signs are that differences will get worked out, and that GOP leaders want to put off their fight against “Obama’s amnesty” until next year (it’s not even clear whether they want the fight then, either). Interestingly, even diehard anti-amnesty warrior Senator Jeff Sessions appears prepared to go along.
* REPUBLICANS SPLIT OVER FILIBUSTER: The Hill reports that Senate Republicans who vigorously protested when Harry Reid ended the filibuster on nominations are now split on whether to keep it when they take over the majority. Some, such as John McCain, say this is “hypocrisy.” But others differ:
If a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, they want that officeholder to be able to shape his or her administration and the judicial branch with as free a hand as Obama has enjoyed during the final three years of his term.
And that’s fine. Progressives should have no problem with the GOP Senate majority opting for confirmations by simple majority.
* A BATTLE TO WATCH: David Leonhardt has a nice overview of the looming battle over whether Republicans will agree to reappoint the highly regarded Douglas Elmendorf as head of the Congressional Budget Office, which appears in doubt in part because Elmendorf’s CBO committed the apostasy of predicting that Obamacare would have a positive fiscal impact.
Also, the battle over Elmendorf may get caught up in the whole question of whether Republicans will instil “dynamic scoring,” i.e., a way of gaming budget math to make it look like tax cuts pay for themselves.
* THE PLUM LINE IS NOW ON FACEBOOK! Have we mentioned that this blog now has its own Facebook page? You like.
* AND SENATE DEMS TO CHALLENGE NRA? Senate Democratic leaders may hold a last-minute vote to confirm Vivek Murphy, Obama’s choice as Surgeon General, even though the National Rifle Association has fought to sink the nomination, in part because Murphy drew a link between guns and public health.
Dems think they have a shot at passage, now that Murphy has received the support of moderate Dems like Mark Warner and Jon Tester, the latter being particularly heartening, as he is the incoming head of the DSCC. Keep an eye on how other outgoing moderate Dems vote here.