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Morning Plum: The GOP Obamacare Fog Machine gears up

A brand spanking new Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds a broad majority of Americans wants Congress to pass a law to make subsidies available in all states if the Supreme Court guts them:

When asked how Congress should respond if the Supreme Court rules that financial help to buy health insurance is only available to low and moderate income people in states with state-run marketplaces, about 6 in 10 (63 percent) say Congress should pass a law so that people in all states can be eligible for financial help from the government while about a quarter (26 percent) say Congress should not act on the issue.

That includes 66 percent of independents, and even 38 percent of Republicans (49 percent of Republicans say Congress shouldn’t act). Meanwhile, of those in the three dozen states on the federal exchange, 55 percent say their state should create its own exchange to keep subsidies flowing, versus only 32 percent who say their state should not.

So that means Obama and Dems will easily win any post-King v. Burwell spin war against both Congressional and state Republicans, right? Maybe not. This, also from Kaiser, explains why:

Most of the public continues to say they have not heard much about the case. About 7 in 10 say they’ve heard only a little (28 percent) or nothing at all (44 percent) about the case. Fourteen percent say they’ve heard something about it and 13 percent say they’ve heard a lot about the case.  These shares are slightly higher than late last year when the Supreme Court announced they would take the case and earlier this year when the Court heard arguments, but still most say they haven’t heard much about the case.

Very few people are paying attention. And let’s face it, once any post-King battle gets going, there will be plenty of opportunities for Republicans to roll out the old Obamacare Fog Machine once again. Republicans could pass something that temporarily extends subsidies but also repeals the individual mandate, and once Obama vetoes it, blame him for killing their effort to help all those millions of people. More generally, they can blame Obamacare itself for kicking all those millions off of Obamacare, and then argue that this is another way the law continues to victimize Americans, an argument they are already experimenting with rather creatively.

These narratives are of course tortured and incoherent, and Democrats may be able to break through the clutter by pointing out that the problem could be fixed very easily if Republicans wanted to join Dems in doing so. Many Americans probably get that Republicans have voted countless times to repeal Obamacare’s benefits for millions more people, that they have been trying to destroy the ACA for years, and that they have been willing to court serious disruptions to do so. So the idea that Republicans are genuinely trying to repair the damage unfolding from a Court ruling against the law — or that Obama is somehow to blame for it — could prove less than convincing.

Indeed, note this, from a health consultant who is widely described as an opponent of the law:

“If you prolong this, there will be enormous anxiety out there in the country for people and their brothers and sisters and co-workers, and the Republicans are going to take a horrible hit for this,” said Robert Laszewski, a longtime health insurance consultant. Politicians can say they support or oppose the law, he said, but the average person’s reaction will be, “Why are you screwing these people, what did they do wrong?”

But it’s still possible Republicans could either not care about the damage they will sustain or mitigate it sufficiently. Once the both-sides-to-blame punditry kicks in alongside the GOP Obamacare Fog Machine, for many people this could just come across as a far-away Washington argument, with little clarity around why the parties can’t agree on a way to restore health coverage for millions — why can’t the two parties get along??? — and why they lost it in the first place.

Still, Republicans appear worried about the battle to come, so there’s that.

* REPUBLICANS DIVIDED OVER OBAMACARE FALLOUT: Politico reports deep divisions among Republicans over how to respond if the Supreme Court guts subsidies. GOP Senators running for president, like Ted Cruz, will insist that the GOP do nothing, to play to the conservative base. Meanwhile:

For Republicans in the Senate, the issue is particularly urgent since GOP seats are in contention in next year’s elections in states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Missouri and North Carolina — all of which adopted the federal exchange and are at risk of losing the subsidies depending on how the court rules. If Congress can’t find a resolution, Republicans in these states worry they’ll face a sharp backlash from people who rely on the subsidies to defray their health care costs.

Those states also have the largest numbers of people who would lose subsidies. Hillary Clinton has signaled she may go on offense over the issue, which could exacerbate those GOP divisions.

* QUOTE OF THE DAY, GOP-OBAMACARE-UP-IS-DOWN EDITION: From the above Politico story, this, from GOP Senator John Barrasso, is remarkable:

“Every Republican has great concerns about the law. I want to do nothing to protect this law. I do want to protect the people who have found that they thought they were following the law and now find out the president is acting illegally.”

As predicted: Obamacare is to blame for holding out the false promise of economic security for millions, which was then snatched away due to Obama’s incompetence (or worse, his lawlessness). And, of course, the best way to protect all those people is to repeal the ACA’s benefits for a whole lot more people.

* REPUBLICANS SCRAMBLE TO SAVE TRADE BILL: The Post reports that John Boehner has hit on a new strategy to save Fast Track, now that House Dems sank the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill for workers that is essential to Fast Track passing: Buy more time. Boehner today will hold a vote on a new rule that would allow him to revisit the issue until July 30th, essentially giving him six more weeks to sort this out.

The problem here is simple: Almost no House Democrats support Fast Track, so they won’t back TAA to enable it; and too few Republicans are willing to support worker assistance, even to get a trade bill.

* ANOTHER WAY OUT ON TRADE? The Hill floats another scenario: House Republicans could simply hold a vote on the Senate-passed bill, which contains TAA and Fast Track (GOP leaders had previously split the votes in two, in order to get them both passed).

But the problem in passing this out of the House is the same: A lot more Democrats would have to vote for Fast Track; or a lot more Republicans would have to vote for worker assistance.


“I will judge what’s in the final agreement, but I hope that it can be made better,” Clinton said during a news conference with reporters here. She urged President Obama to use what she described as the leverage of a House vote Friday that temporarily derailed the deal. She twice avoided answering whether she still supports the “fast track” negotiating authority Obama seeks or will want the same powers if she becomes president.

The Clinton people have said she doesn’t need to take a position on Fast Track, because it’s a process issue. But this is an intensely debated issue among Dems and they deserve to know where she stands on it.

* SCOTT WALKER’S RECORD AS GOVERNOR CRITICIZED: The Associated Press reports: While Scott Walker is campaigning in early primary states, Wisconsin lawmakers, including Republicans, are increasingly critical of Walker’s budget and policies. But:

Walker is likely to walk away with some big wins: on lifting an enrollment cap on statewide private school vouchers, on new drug screening for public aid recipients and on lower property taxes. Those are all sure-fire crowd pleasers on the Republican presidential circuit.

And that’s what really matters! Or is it? It’ll get interesting when Jeb Bush contrasts his record as Florida governor with Walker’s in Wisconsin.

* AND WALKER EYES JULY LAUNCH: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that his team is looking at July 13th as a possible date for launching his presidential candidacy. How long will he have been running for president as an “unofficial” candidate at that point?