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Morning Plum: A crack in red state resistance to Obamacare? Maybe sort of.

Politico reports this morning that there is a real shift underway among red state governors towards Obamacare: A number of them are newly open to accepting the Medicaid expansion — as long as they can couple it with some kind of work requirement.

This might seem like just more “safety-net-as-hammock” talk from Republicans — i.e., government assistance for poor people will sap their work ethic, so the only way red states can accept Obamacare money to expand health coverage to them is with some kind of work provision so they don’t get lulled into dependency while lounging in that hammock.

But I’m going to suggest that this is, on balance, a good development — in the sense that more GOP governors appear open to finding terms upon which they are willing to take the money to cover their constituents. Politico:

In nearly a dozen Republican-dominated states, either the governor or conservative legislators are seeking to add work requirements to Obamacare Medicaid expansion, much like an earlier generation pushed for welfare to work.
The move presents a politically acceptable way for conservative states to accept the billions of federal dollars available under Obamacare, bringing health care coverage to millions of low-income people. But to the Obama administration, a work requirement is a non-starter, an unacceptable ideological shift in the 50-year-old Medicaid program and a break with the Affordable Care Act’s mission of expanding health care coverage to all Americans. The Health and Human Services Department has rejected all requests by states to tie Medicaid to work.
But the idea is catching fire among Republicans —and may well resonate on the presidential campaign trail in 2016.

Click through for the details on which governors are considering variations of this. The idea may go nowhere, because it’s vehemently opposed by the Obama administration. That’s because the expansion is part of Obamacare and not the welfare system; this idea would mean subsidizing lower-middle-class people on the exchanges without such conditions while imposing them on poorer people; and many people eligible for the Medicaid expansion already work, while others are caring for dependents.

But the specifics aside, the point here is that GOP governors are at least open to determining whether there are conditions under which they are willing to participate in Obamacare. Even if the conditions they are gravitating towards are unacceptable to many supporters of the law, this is what is supposed to be happening. There should be a contentious policy debate over these matters. And at any rate, that beats a blanket vow not to participate in Obamacare no matter what simply because it’s Obamacare, which is what we’re hearing out of Florida. (One wonders how conservatives who are demanding unflinching resistance will react to these latest developments.)

This could have ramifications for the King v. Burwell lawsuit. If red state governors are newly open to negotiating the terms on which they can accept federal money to cover their own constituents via the Medicaid expansion, perhaps there might be more space than anticipated for them to negotiate the terms on which they might set up exchanges to keep constituents from losing subsidies. If that sounds foolishly optimistic, perhaps that’s an indication of just how low expectations have fallen for the prospects of GOP resistance to Obamacare waning anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans are suddenly realizing that losing the subsidies to all those millions of people in federal exchange states might not be such a great outcome for them. But that brings us to our next item.

 * GOP GRAPPLES WITH POSSIBLE VICTORY OVER OBAMACARE: Modern Healthcare has a good look at the dilemma the GOP faces as it offers various “contingency fix” plans for the millions who might lose subsidies. Note this:

It’s highly uncertain whether Republicans can unite behind a single plan, given that more conservative Republicans oppose any federal funding or regulatory role in expanding health coverage. And in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in King v. Burwell striking down subsidies, any proposal that offers any subsidies could be scored by Congressional Budget Office as new spending.

Yep! If Republicans want to avoid political damage by helping to to keep the subsidies going for millions after a pro-King ruling, they’re going to have to spend federal money!

* DEMS TO PUSH MINIMUM WAGE HIKE TODAY: Senator Patty Murray and Rep. Bobby Scott will introduce a bill to boost the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour by the year 2020. It will be called the “Raise the Wage Act,” after the phrase widely used to describe the push for a wage hike among fast food and other workers in demonstrations around the country.

The previous goal was $10.10 per hour, but some states are pushing higher, raising the bar for the federal minimum in the eyes of Congressional Dems. While this will go nowhere in the GOP-controlled Congress, the push for higher wages is taking on the feel of a real movement around the country, and could help frame the contrast between the parties heading into 2016.

* GOP BUDGET PUSH HITS SNAG: The Hill reports that House Republicans have postponed a vote on their first spending bill of the year, possibly out of concern that an amendment to restore fiscal prudence to the process might actually pass. The amendment — pushed by Dem Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Tea Partyer Mick Mulvaney — would restrict the use of a budgetary fund that appears to have been created to allow continued military spending above sequester caps, while keeping those caps in place.

If true, it appears there just might be real bipartisan opposition to GOP budget hocus pocus designed to keep (some) government spending going while feigning otherwise.

* A GLIMMER OF GOOD ECONOMIC NEWS: From the Associated Press:

The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid plummeted to the lowest level in 15 years last week, evidence that employers are laying off few workers despite a sharp slowdown in economic growth. Weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped 34,000 to 262,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the lowest level since April 2000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dipped 1,250 to 283,750, near a 15-year low.

Of course, this comes after yesterday’s news that growth has pretty much stalled out, so…

* THE ECONOMIC CONTEXT TO THE BALTIMORE RIOTS: E.J. Dionne has a nice column on the economic dimensions to the Baltimore riots, focusing on the lasting impacts of the hollowing out of the city’s manufacturing base on the city’s stranded populations:

Our leaders keep pledging relief to individuals and communities left out of the bounty that trade and technology create. Yet, as Obama conceded, “I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities.” So where will the help come from? Or will we just go back to “business as usual”? The people of Baltimore and all the other places the invisible hand has left stranded deserve better.

As noted yesterday, while Republicans and Dems agree on the need for police reform, it will be interesting to see how hard Hillary Clinton leans into Obama’s call for more investments in urban communities as a key element of a solution.

* AND JEB BUSH HONES PITCH TO HISPANICS: The Wall Street Journal has an interesting account of a Jeb Bush appearance before a group of Hispanic evangelicals:

In remarks delivered partly in Spanish, Mr. Bush told the evangelical group the U.S. immigration system is broken and must be fixed. He also said millions of undocumented workers should have the chance to earn legal status. “This country does not do well when people lurk in the shadows,” he said.

Republican and Democratic operatives alike will likely pay close attention to this.