Republican leaders are openly rooting for the Supreme Court to gut Obamacare subsidies in three dozen states, explicitly in order to accomplish what Republicans failed to accomplish through the political and legislative process. That suggests Republicans have no intention to agree to any “fixes” to the law if SCOTUS does gut it, even though some conservative reform types want them to offer some sort of policy response of their own if millions lose subsidies and coverage.
A new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation should theoretically give Republicans rooting for such a decision some pause, and should also give some support to conservatives who are demanding Republicans not simply sit on their hands and do nothing. Unfortunately, the new polling probably won’t matter to GOP leaders in the least, but the data is still noteworthy:
— 64 percent of Americans want Congress to pass a law to re-start financial help for health care if SCOTUS guts subsidies, versus only 27 percent who don’t want Congress to do anything. Those numbers among independents are 63-29.
— However, a plurality of Republicans wants Congress to do nothing: 49 percent say Congress shouldn’t act, versus only 40 percent who want Congress to act. That latter category is actually pretty large, but Republican Congressional leaders are far more likely to heed GOP voters who oppose action than anyone else.
But here is where it gets interesting. It turns out that in states that would be adversely impacted by such a decision, even a majority of Republicans wants states to create exchanges to keep subsidies flowing:
— 51 percent of Republicans say their states should create their own exchanges, versus only 34 percent who say they shouldn’t.
— Among Americans overall, 59 percent want states to create exchanges. Sixty-three percent of independents agree.
You’d think strong majority support for Congress stepping in to keep subsidies flowing, plus majority support for states acting to do the same — including among Republicans — would suggest that a Court decision gutting subsidies might mean some political pressure on Congressional Republicans and/or state GOP lawmakers to fix the problem if it arises.
For this reason, it’s quite plausible that many Republicans — particularly in potentially affected states — don’t relish such an outcome. After all, they may find themselves caught between two constituencies: Majorities who want action, and Republicans who don’t. Of course, the latter are likely to be far more vocal — even in states where Republicans demanding inaction are in a minority among themselves — and GOP officials are likely to be more inclined to listen to them.
Republicans are already making a lot of nice noises about having their own alternatives ready to go for those who are left without coverage, which suggests they perhaps agree there are political perils here. Of course, it’s very possible that all of this is just a bait-and-switch designed to persuade Justices that the consequences of striking subsides might not be all that dire, making such a decision more likely. After all, Republicans been promising an alternative for years.
Yet such a bait-and-switch might not be politically effective, at least among overall voters: The Kaiser poll finds that 63 percent of Americans don’t think there is any Republican alternative to Obamacare.
* HUGE NUMBER OF OBAMACARE SIGN-UPS QUALIFY FOR SUBSIDIES: Some 9.5 million people have signed up to receive health coverage through the exchanges, though it’s still unclear how many will end up paying for it, that puts the administration near its goal. These are key numbers, per HHS…
More than 7.1 million people had selected or been automatically re-enrolled in plans through the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov…87 percent of people with coverage through the federal exchange had qualified for financial assistance in the form of tax credits to help pay their premiums.
That means a lot of people stand to lose subsidies if the Supreme Court guts them in the federal exchange states. The question is, will that weigh on the Justices?
* MEDICAID EXPANSION TO BECOME BIG ISSUE IN GOP PRIMARY? With Indiana governor Mike Pence agreeing to a version of the Medicaid expansion, Politico reports that this could become a litmus test in the coming GOP presidential primary, as conservatives seek to attack GOP governors and presidential hopefuls who have done the same:
Other Republican governors eyeing the White House have walked a similar plank. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie worked with his Democratic state Legislature to pass Medicaid expansion. Ohio Gov. John Kasich circumvented GOP leaders to implement the policy. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker refused to expand Medicaid but implemented a separate plan that leans heavily on Obamacare’s insurance exchange.
One GOP aide says conservative presidential hopefuls will seek to attack these governors as “aiding and abetting Obamacare,” and being “just as complicit” as Obama in helping the law succeed. Lethal among GOP primary voters!
* WHAT TO WATCH TODAY: LATEST IN GOP MAXIMUM-DEPORTATIONS PUSH: Loretta Lynch, Obama’s nominee as Attorney General, will face a grilling before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, and GOP Senators will demand to know whether she agrees with the legal argument for Obama’s executive deportation relief. Here’s a preview of her answer:
Lynch plans to tell senators that she doesn’t believe President Barack Obama has blanket power to grant “amnesty” to undocumented immigrants, but she’ll argue that the president’s sweeping moves on the issue have stayed within the bounds of the Constitution.
Good luck! The panel’s anti-“amnesty” warriors — Ted Cruz, Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee — won’t recognize any distinction between blanket “amnesty” and Obama’s temporary deportation reprieve, which doesn’t constitute a new immigration status. The question is whether relatively sober GOP Senators (Orrin Hatch, Jeff Flake) can be peeled off.
* SENATE GOP FLUMMOXED BY OBAMA DEPORTATION RELIEF: David Drucker reports that Senate Republicans are set to vote on the House GOP proposal rolling back Obama’s executive actions, but they know Democrats will block it, and they have no idea what to do next. This explains their quandary:
Some Republicans are willing to let DHS funding lapse because most of its employees are considered essential, meaning they would show up to work even if there was no funding deal. (Their pay would be deferred.) Republicans could then blame Democrats and Obama for the shutdown. This would, however, flout GOP leaders’ vow that no agency would shut down during a Republican Congress. It would also do nothing to stop Obama’s immigration order because the relevant immigration services are funded with direct user fees that don’t require congressional authority to be spent.
Because blaming Obama for the shutdown worked so well last time! Yes, this does look like a problem. However, it’s worth reiterating that the courts could still very well block Obama’s actions at upcoming hearings.
* GOP MULLS WHETHER TO ACTUALLY LEGISLATE ON IMMIGRATION: The Hill has a good overview of various responses Republicans are mulling to Obama’s executive actions. One involves the House passing some visa reforms, such as lifting caps on high-skilled visas, that Republicans support. But:
Allowing Obama’s executive actions to stand and adding components of immigration reform favored by Republicans might persuade a group of centrist Democrats to join with the majority of the Senate GOP conference to pass an alternative. But it would likely face a party-line vote and a mass of conservative defections in the House.
Yep: Apparently actual legislating on this issue in a way that is not solely shaped around opposition to Obama will cause “mass conservative defections.”
* AND KOCH GROUPS ENTER FIGHT OVER GAS TAX: This is just great. USA Today reports that the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity and other Koch groups will be among those getting involved in a lobbying campaign against a gas tax hike to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, which is set to run low this spring and is needed to keep up job-sustaining infrastructure repair.
It was already looking grim for the gas tax hike, but this makes it look even grimmer. I guess Republicans (who claim to want to fund infrastructure repair) may have to default to Plan B: Pay for it with “dynamic scoring”!