Last month, National Journal reported that senior Republicans were deliberating ways to offer a “fix” to Obamacare, should the Supreme Court gut subsidies in three dozen states, yanking health coverage from millions and unleashing disruptions in insurance markets across the country. To be sure, such a “fix” would not be free: Republicans said at the time they might trade a fix to the subsidy problem in exchange for changes to the law they want.
Congressional Republicans say they won’t move to preserve consumers’ health insurance tax credits if the Supreme Court strikes them down, raising the stakes in the latest legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act.
The reason for this is spelled out in unvarnished terms:
Leaders in the GOP-controlled House and Senate see the court challenge as their best hope for tearing apart a law they have long opposed. If the court strikes down the subsidies, Democrats are expected to clamor for lawmakers to pass a measure correcting the language in the law to revive them. Congressional Republicans say there is no possibility they would allow that.
Well, no kidding. Senate GOP leaders have repeatedly said on the record that they are rooting for SCOTUS to accomplish what Republicans failed to accomplish through the legislative and political process, i.e., repeal. Thus, all the talk about Republicans preparing any kind of “alternative” — whether it be a fix to the subsidies in exchange for other changes, or some phantom GOP health reform that would expand coverage to some of those who would lose it — is probably just a bait and switch designed to create the impression that the consequences of a SCOTUS ruling gutting the law might not be all that dire.
That illusion should be impossible to sustain, given that top Republicans have given away the game and openly rooted for a SCOTUS ruling to obliterate the law from the landscape. However, I do want to associate myself with this observation from Brian Beutler:
A Supreme Court ruling for plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the case that threatens Affordable Care Act subsidies in three dozen states, would unleash terrible chaos and create a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the U.S. political system.
Anyone who claims to know how that uncertainty would be resolved is lying, but everyone who’s followed the issue closely knows that the story wouldn’t end with more than 30 states limping along with hobbled insurance markets in perpetuity.
It is for this reason that there is a hidden upside in a Supreme Court ruling with the challengers. It just might finally force Republicans to own the consequences of their actual current stance on health reform, which is that they favor blowing up Obamacare and replacing it with nothing. Republicans could very well just allow the disruptions to unfold in hopes that chaos is their political friend in the 2016 election. Alternatively, Republicans could enter into real negotiations to fix the law in exchange for changes they want. Or Republicans could finally coalesce behind an alternative that would purport to expand coverage to those who lost it and continue to go without it. Or maybe that alternative wouldn’t purport to do this. Either way, that alternative could be evaluated against what Obamacare had been doing in many states before SCOTUS gutted it. Then we could re-litigate all this in 2016.
Doing nothing to fix Obamacare or offering nothing substantive to cover the newly uninsured is obviously Republicans’ right, even if liberals would find it deeply immoral. But the game they’ve been playing for years on the law — in which they’ve fulminated for repeal, secure in the knowledge that they wouldn’t have to see it happen and/or make the difficult policy choices that might result from it — would be over. At that point, things would get very, very interesting, and as Beutler says, no one knows where things would go from there.
* NETANYAHU PRIVATELY LOBBIES DEMS, TO LITTLE AVAIL: The New York Times reports that Benjamin Netanyahu has been privately calling top Democrats, including Harry Reid, to calm anger over the House GOP invitation (without the President’s knowledge) for him to speak to Congress. But it isn’t working, and the planned speech is making Democrats more supportive of Obama’s position on Iran:
Netanyahu’s office confirmed Thursday that he had called Democrats and “other friends” in Congress in recent days, and that he “reiterated that the survival of Israel is not a partisan issue.” Mr. Reid…said he had advised the prime minister that the speech, scheduled for March, had become such a problem that some Democratic senators had backed off their support of the quick imposition of new sanctions on Iran.
This is a sign Dems are finding a bit more spine when it comes to worrying about appearing out of sync with everything Israel wants. But will more Dems call for a delay in the speech until after the current round of diplomacy with Iran?
* REPUBLICANS DEBATE NEXT MOVES ON IRAN: The Hill reports that some Republicans, at least, are backing off the push for a vote on Iran sanctions now, which the White House fears could scuttle ongoing negotiations over that country’s nuclear program:
Some in the GOP conference are pushing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the sanctions bill up for a vote immediately, arguing Democrats should be forced to go on record as supporting Obama’s nuclear diplomacy….But other Republicans are urging a more cautious approach, with some suggesting they should prioritize legislation that would give Congress veto power over any deal.
For a time Democrats were deeply divided over whether to hold a sanctions vote. With Democrats now appearing a bit more unified behind Obama’s request for more time for diplomacy, it would be interesting if this ends up dividing Republicans.
* GROWTH SLOWS DOWN: The latest:
U.S. economic growth retreated to a modest pace in the final months of 2014, underscoring obstacles facing the recovery as troubles mount abroad. Gross domestic product — the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy — expanded at a 2.6% annual rate in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. The economy grew 5% in the third quarter and 4.6% in the second quarter after contracting in the first three months of the year.
Mitch McConnell told us that previous signs of a quickening recovery might be due to the anticipation of a GOP Congress. I’m guessing Obummer is to blame for the fourth quarter slowdown…
* BEWARE OF ADMINISTRATION’S CLAIMS ABOUT TRADE DEALS: The Obama administration has claimed that the big trade deal it is negotiating among nations around the Pacific rim will create 650,000 jobs. But Glenn Kessler finds that even the source of the claim the administration cites is disputing it, and otherwise offers a deep technical dive into how the jobs benefits of such deals are calculated. Ouch:
In this case, the correct number is zero, not 650,000, according to the very study used to calculate this number.
The administration is engaged in a full court press to get Democrats to support “fast track authority” for Obama to negotiate this deal with only a straight Congressional up-or-down vote on the final product. This won’t help, and it remains likely that this will become a serious fault line among Democrats.
* RUBIO-MENTUM!!!! Sean Sullivan has the latest signs Marco Rubio is likely to run for president, including a fundraising swing through California and quotes from Republicans who appear convinced he’s going to do it. This is interesting:
Florida law prohibits Rubio from running for president and for reelection to the Senate at the same time, but until he makes up his mind, he will be forced to position himself for two radically different political contests: a Senate campaign in a swing state that voted twice for Barack Obama and a GOP primary run in which the most conservative elements of the party often dominate.
No problem! Rubio can be both the Senator who championed comprehensive immigration reform and the Senator who blasts Obummer’s Amnesty at the same time.
* MITT ROMNEY WOULD MAKE A FABULOUS PRESIDENT, ACCORDING TO MITT ROMNEY: Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin reports on the deliberations underway inside Camp Romney as he decides whether to run again for president. This is amusing:
The main rationale on the “go” side is Mitt and Ann Romney’s strongly held conviction that no one in the current field would make a better president…the Romneys believe it to their core and thus feel Mitt has an obligation to his country to once again shoulder the mantle. Following his crushing defeat in 2012, Romney has deemed Obama’s second term an utter failure, particularly on issues of national security and the domestic economy.
The country needs Romney to save the economy, Romney and his wife say. That’s illuminating. Meanwhile, Bloomberg also notes that Romney thinks that he would be able to get to 270 electoral votes this time if “he can convince just a few more voters that he “cares about people.'”
* STAY TUNED FOR WORD OF ROMNEY’S PLANS! CNN reports that Romney will reveal his 2016 decision to supporters later this morning. And millions of Americans quiver on the edge of their seats with anticipation….