Indeed, GOP lawmakers might have another reason not to make good on these promises: Republican voters apparently don’t want them to. A new poll finds that a solid majority of GOP respondents want the Court to nix subsidies — and an even larger majority of Republicans want Congress not to update the law if the Court rules that way.
The Associated Press-GFK poll finds that a majority of Americans overall, 56 percent, want the Court to “allow the government to continue subsidizing premiums in all 50 states.” Only 39 percent of Americans want the Court to “limit the government to subsidizing premiums only in states with their own exchanges.”
Meanwhile, if the Court does nix subsidies, a slim majority of Americans, 51 percent, want Congress to “update the law” to allow subsidies in all states. Forty-four percent want Congress to leave the law as is and allow states to decide whether to keep subsidies going by setting up exchanges.
The good folks over at the AP sent over a partisan breakdown. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans want the Court to limit subsidies only to states with their own exchanges, and if the Court does that, 65 percent of Republicans want Congress to leave the law as is and leave it up to states to make the call on subsidies.
But as noted above, majorities of Americans overall want the opposite in both cases, and it turns out that independents lean in that direction, too: 51 percent of them want the Court to keep subsidies in all 50 states; and 50 percent of them want the law updated to keep subsidies going if the Court kills them.
And so, it’s perfectly possible that if the Court guts subsidies, it will put Republicans in a bind, in addition to being a terrible outcome for Democrats. GOP voters will want GOP lawmakers to do nothing, but GOP lawmakers may want to create a temporary fix for those losing subsidies, to punt the political fallout among independents and Americans overall until after the 2016 election. Remember, Republicans themselves — see Karl Rove and Senator Ben Sasse — are warning that Democrats will have the upper hand politically if Republicans don’t offer something.
As I’ve reported before, one way Republicans may proceed is by offering a temporary fix that also repeals the individual mandate, with the explicit goal of drawing a veto from Obama. This would allow Republicans to at least argue they tried to help the millions who are losing subsidies (thanks to the lawsuit Republicans cheered on), but because Obama is hopelessly addicted to his tyrannical individual mandate, he won’t let them.
But what would happen at that point? Jonathan Bernstein has a smart piece gaming out how such a standoff might unfold:
The question then becomes whether Republicans would prefer to back off and pass a “clean” subsidies extension — one allowing subsidies to continue in all states and doing nothing else — or to hold on and try to blame Obama for the chaos.The outcome comes down to a simple question: Will Republicans consider a subsidies fix a “must-pass” bill? If so, they’ll back off and allow a simple fix through the 2016 election to pass, probably with mostly Democratic votes. That is, plenty of Republicans might be happy to have subsidies restored as long as they don’t have to vote for it.
Such an outcome — individual GOP lawmakers publicly oppose a fix, while privately being okay with it if GOP leaders allow a fix to get through with Dem votes — might also work for GOP governors. Remember, folks like Scott Walker — who might have a particularly difficult political problem on his hands from a Court ruling gutting subsidies — are already telegraphing that they will pressure the federal government to fix the problem, apparently so they don’t have to anger conservatives by setting up exchanges.
But as Bernstein also notes, Congressional Republicans may not act at all:
Then again, Republicans may prefer to hold off and see what happens. They probably would lose the public opinion battle – after all, the president (who always has the bigger microphone) can wave around a one-page bill that would save the insurance of millions of people, while Republicans would have to argue that it’s the president’s fault because he wouldn’t sign their more complicated bill. They might not care, though.
They might not care, and if the AP poll is right, Republican voters might even cheer them on! And then we’ll litigate all of this in 2016.