This week, the government submits its brief in the King v. Burwell lawsuit. That will renew attention to the question of whether the Supreme Court will conclude that the Affordable Care Act doesn’t make subsidies available to the three dozen states on the federal exchange — which could yank coverage from millions of people.
So how many Republican-run states actually want this challenge to succeed? With this in mind, I want to flag a quote from a Republican governor that, I think, suggests a good line of questioning.
Via Taegan Goddard, the Great Falls Tribune reports that Ohio Governor John Kasich, talking to a group of GOP legislators in Montana, made a very spirited pitch for the success of the version of the Medicaid expansion that Kasich has embraced in his own state. He said that Republicans should not oppose the Medicaid expansion on the basis of “strict ideology” — translation: Hatred of Obummercare — and added:
“I gotta tell you, turning down your money back to Montana on an ideological basis, when people can lose their lives because they get no help, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Kasich told Republican lawmakers…
“There’s no money in Washington, it’s my money,” Kasich said. “I brought my money back to Ohio. And what did we do with it? We treat the mentally ill, we treat the drug addicted, and we help the working poor stop going to emergency rooms and forcing me to pay for their medical bills because they go there sicker.”
Kasich said taking care of the poor is a core conservative value, and a policy conservative icon Ronald Reagan even supported. In 1986 Reagan signed a bill that allowed states to add poor children and pregnant women to Medicaid
“I don’t know if you’ve ever read Matthew 25, but I’d recommend it to you…about ‘do you feed the homeless and do you clothe the poor,'” Kasich told Sales. “I’m a believer that it is in the conservative tradition to make sure we help people get on their feet so they then are not dependent.”…
“In my state it’s working,” Kasich said. “People are healthier, they’re getting their lives back, they’re getting work, and that’s the reason I’m doing it.”
Strong arguments! But the question is, If Kasich is making this case for accepting federal money to expand health care to poor people, then how would he justify not accepting federal money to cover lower-income working people? That’s the question many Republican state lawmakers may soon face, if SCOTUS upholds the challenge to the ACA and strikes subsidies in three dozen states on the federal exchange. These lawmakers would then be faced with the question of whether to set up state exchanges — which would keep subsidies flowing to their own constituents — or bow to inevitable conservative pressure to do nothing and let the disruptions unfold.
But the rub here is that, by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s count, some 15 of the states on the federal exchange have also embraced a version of the Medicaid expansion. This means that if these states decline to set up exchanges, they’d effectively be embracing federal money to expand health care to poor people, while declining federal money — the return of their own tax money, as Kasich puts it — to cover working lower-income and middle class people.
Now, as I’ve written before, conservatives could certainly make arguments to justify this outcome that are internally consistent, even if liberals find them morally wanting. But even so, this may not be a position these GOP lawmakers want to be placed in. As the New York Times reports, a surprisingly large number of GOP-led states have not signed on to the King v. Burwell lawsuit. As it happens, many of them are also states that have expanded Medicaid.
I don’t know if these states didn’t sign on to the lawsuit because they don’t want it to succeed. (Steve Benen had a good piece recently gaming out this possibility.) But Kasich’s quotes provide a pretty good hook to ask GOP legislators in states that have expanded Medicaid — accepting federal money to cover their poor citizens — if they really want SCOTUS to strike down federal money for expanding coverage to lower-income and middle class workers.
* BIG OBAMACARE DEVELOPMENT TO WATCH TODAY: Related to the above: Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is set to announce in a speech this morning whether the state will keep in place its version of the Medicaid expansion. David Ramsey has all you need to know about the political dynamics at play, and he explains why a hard-core bloc of conservatives could end up scuttling the whole thing.
Reminder: Thanks in part to Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion — a.k.a. the Private Option — the state showed one of the steepest drops in the uninsured rate in the country. Of course, for some opponents, this is perhaps a strike against it.
* REPUBLICANS START TALKING MORE ABOUT INEQUALITY: The New York Times has a good overview of the ways in which many Republicans are trying to refocus their rhetoric (and, here and there, policies) on the problems of middle class wage stagnation. As the piece notes, some leading Republicans do support expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to childless adults — the sort of tax relief for working people Obama proposed — and even infrastructure repair, which Democrats see
The question, though, remains: Are Republicans willing to entertain any new revenues from the very wealthy to pay for such things? If not, how do they propose to fund them? Aside from using “dynamic scoring,” of course.
* HOUSE GOP YANKS ABORTION BILL: Last night, House Republican leaders abruptly pulled a bill that would have banned many abortions past 30 weeks. Alex Roarty has a good piece explaining why going forward with this bill might seriously damage the GOP’s 2016 chances among a key constituency:
In a race against Hillary Clinton, the GOP starts at a stark disadvantage among a very specific group of voters it needs to start peeling away from Democrats if it intends to take the White House: white, college-educated women. These are mostly suburban, moderate voters who skew socially moderate but are hardly fiscally progressive; in other words, they’re broadly supportive of abortion rights but generally opposed to higher taxes.
Also: If Republican chances of winning in 2016 are increasingly dependent on maximizing support among white voters, thanks to ongoing demographic shifts, the pressure on Republicans to hold on to socially liberal college educated whites — a constituency Democrats already are making a very good play for — increases.
* HILLARY LEADING ALL GOP CHALLENGERS: A new Washington Post poll finds Hillary Clinton is leading Jeb Bush and Rand Paul by margins of 54-41; she is leading Chris Christie by 53-40; Mike Huckabee by 56-39; and Mitt Romney by 55-40.
Polling this early is not particularly valuable, but here’s an interesting finding: Majorities say it will make “no difference” to them that Clinton’s husband and Jeb Bush’s brother both served as president. There’s been a lot of consternation about the dynastic implications of the two candidates running, but perhaps many Americans don’t find it all that problematic.
* HILLARY LEADS CHRIS CHRISTIE — IN NEW JERSEY: Meanwhile, a new Quinnipiac poll finds Clinton leading Chris Christie in the state he runs, i.e., New Jersey, by 52-39. Notably, New Jersey residents say Christie should not run by 56-30, and that he would not make a good president by 57-36.
* MORE ANALYSIS OF VOTER REACTION TO OBAMA’S SPEECH: Yesterday I reported on the real-time reactions of economically struggling swing voters to Obama’s State of the Union speech. Some good additional analysis: Ed Kilgore talks about the tendency of progressives to overestimate the impact of populist rhetoric on such voters, when what they really want to hear is concrete solutions to their immediate economic challenges.
And Digby explains that Democrats still face the challenge of getting these voters to keep focused their actual policy proposals when many remain persuaded the party is generally too beholden to government and hostile to their values.
* AND THE HEADLINE OF THE DAY, REPUBLICANS-CAN-NEVER-LOSE EDITION: This, from Politico, is just so exciting:
Republicans outfox Democrats on climate vote
They did this by voting to confirm climate change is real but that it’s not caused by human activity. Never mind that Republicans confirmed their disdain for international scientific consensus — they “won,” somehow.