Prepare to be shocked, shocked, shocked! It’s increasingly looking like Republicans won’t have any contingency plan in place if the Supreme Court guts subsidies for millions in three dozen federal exchange states. Jonathan Cohn has a must-read this morning in which he reports that there are no signs of any public Congressional debate among Republicans about this contingency fix.
As Cohn notes, there’s a reason Republicans aren’t offering any temporary contingency fix or broader health reform alternative: They don’t agree with the idea of “creating a truly universal coverage system in which everybody has access, regardless of income or health,” because that “requires some combination of regulation, taxes and redistribution.”
New HHS numbers illustrate that the stakes have only grown higher: Some 6.4 million people are now at risk of losing subsidies nationally. The Kaiser Family Foundation has created a nifty new table that allows us to break down the situation by state.
It shows that the greatest numbers of people who stand to lose subsidies live in states that are key presidential battlegrounds and home to some of the most contested Senate races of the cycle:
— In Florida, 1,324,516 people are at risk of losing subsidies. If that happens, they would be hit by an average 359 percent premium increase.
— In North Carolina, 458,738 people are at risk of losing subsidies. They’d be hit by an average 336 percent premium increase.
— In Pennsylvania, 348,823 people are at risk of losing subsidies. They’d be hit by an average 177 percent premium increase.
— In Virginia, 285, 938 people are at risk of losing subsidies. They’d be hit by an average 287 percent premium increase.
— In Wisconsin, 166,142 people are at risk of losing subsidies. They’d be hit by an average 252 percent premium increase.
— In Ohio, 161,011 people are at risk of losing subsidies. They’d be hit by an average 190 percent premium increase.
— In Indiana, 159,802 people are at risk of losing subsidies. They’d be hit by an average 271 percent premium increase.
Untold numbers of these people could lose coverage. In many of these states, vulnerable GOP incumbent Senators face reelection. If the Court rules against the government, presumably they’d be asked if they’ll support Congress doing a simple fix to keep subsidies flowing to hundreds of thousands of their constituents. (It’s no accident that vulnerable Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson rushed out his own contingency plan.) Two presidential contenders — Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio — come from the state where well over a million people will lose subsidies.
It’s not yet clear how much all this will matter for the presidential and Senate races, but many Republicans appear worried. And Democrats will certainly try to make it matter.
Meanwhile, many state officials from red states that stand to lose subsidies are concluding that they don’t have any real options to fix subsidies themselves. Even in states where some want to do that, other Republicans may stand in the way. If that happens, state officials will likely demand that the federal government — meaning Congressional Republicans — act. Scott Walker is already doing this. But it’s looking like Congressional Republicans won’t act. Even if they do manage to offer a contingency fix, it will likely also repeal the provisions that make Obamacare work — which means it will be all about drawing a presidential veto for the political blame game that follows.
Thus, in all probability nothing will be done for all these people, leading to a very nasty, protracted political battle over the fallout. Which explains why Republicans are already laying plans to blame Obama and Democrats for it.
* OBAMA’S NUMBERS DIP A BIT: A new CNN poll’s headline blares: “Obama’s approval heads downhill.” Well, okay. CNN has his approval at 45-52, down from April. But that’s consistent with polling averages that have shown him at around 46 percent since February, though in fairness the averages also do show a very slight dip.
Meanwhile, the CNN poll shows Obama’s approval on the economy at 46 percent, a number the Hillary Clinton camp may be watching closely.
* NEWSFLASH: VOTERS DON’T THINK HILLARY = OBAMA: A new Washington Post/ABC News poll also finds a dip in Obama’s approval, but, shockingly, it shows that voters think Hillary Clinton would govern as her own person:
Americans, though, expect Clinton to offer a different path; 58 percent expect she will come up with new policies if elected president rather than follow Obama’s, and most who expect new ideas say this is a “good thing.” Among Democrats, two-thirds expect Clinton to follow her own path and the vast majority see this as a positive move.
Meanwhile, all signs are Republicans are unshakably certain that their Hillary-equals-Obummer-third-term strategy can’t possibly fall a bit short.
* REPUBLICANS DON’T WANT GOV’T TO FIGHT INEQUALITY: The new Post/ABC poll also asks:
Do you think the federal government should or should not pursue policies that try to reduce the gap between wealthy and less well-off Americans?
Sixty two percent of Americans say Yes, as do 65 percent of independents. But Republicans say by 55-38 that the government should not do this, and conservative Republicans say the same by 66-27.
* HOUSE MAY GIVE OBAMA FAST TRACK, AFTER ALL: Obama’s request for Fast Track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership faces a tough road in the House, but Politico counts the votes and finds GOP leaders are optimistic:
House Republicans, meanwhile, are feeling newfound optimism that at least 190 of their lawmakers will support so-called trade promotion authority giving the president power to fast-track free-trade agreements. That would mean roughly 27 Democrats would need to support the legislation in order to hand Obama his largest legislative victory in years. Eighteen Democrats are currently on record backing the bill.
So, no Tea Party rebellion against granting Obama negotiating authority? Shocker! Meanwhile, getting 27 House Dems seems doable, though there will be a lot of noise first.
* WHY DEMS ARE FIGHTING OVER TRADE: Don’t miss David Nakamura’s good report explaining that the intra-Dem Dem fight over the TPP reflects a deeper economic divide among Democrats. The Dems who might vote for TPP believe it will help exporting farmers and boost high-tech industries, while Dems who oppose it represent “the fierce opposition from the labor unions that represent the working-class heart of the Democratic Party.”
Conclusion: “The tension reflects mounting anxiety within the party over the nation’s widening income gap and a fear that the trade deal will produce a clear set of winners and losers among U.S. industries.”
* OBAMA SIGNS BILL ENDING BULK SURVEILLANCE: The U.S.A. Freedom Act passed the Senate last night, and the President signed it shortly after. This is a partial but significant victory for the left-right alliance of civil liberties progressives and libertarian conservatives that intermittently rises up against national security overreach.
Still, further vigilance will be required, as civil libertarians believe the U.S.A. Freedom Act still leaves in place too much surveillance authority. It will be interesting to see what this left-right alliance’s next target will be.
* AND FEEL THE JINDAL-MENTUM!!! NBC News reports that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will make a “major announcement” about his future plans on June 24th. Given his visits to early primary states, he’s probably running.
What we’ll be watching for: Jindal may try to pull the GOP field rightward by drawing a hard line against any fix to subsidies if the Supreme Court guts them, and by demanding continued resistance if the Court declares a Constitutional right to gay marriage.