Monday, September 30, 2013

Quick Obamacare Update

Here's the nutshell of where things stand at the moment...

When the Senate gutted the Obamacare defunding measure from the House CR, the bill went back to the House for a re-vote.  John Boehner and the Republicans passed the bill a second time, but with a different twist.  Basically, they kept the full funding for the government's operation and did not put back the Obamacare defunding, but they did put in a new measure to delay for one year the implementation of the individual mandate for Obamacare.  The individual mandate is the part that makes it illegal for any American not to participate.  It's not a permanent thing, but it would have the effect of postponing the single worst requirement of the law.  No one thinks Obamacare is ready to go yet -- not lawmakers, not medical providers, not insurance companies, not state governments, not the American people -- so this does seem like a perfectly reasonable action to take.

Politically speaking, this isn't a terribly bad move, and here's why:
This may prove a little more difficult for Democrats to fend off.  They had some room to claim that voters didn’t want a full repeal of ObamaCare, but the myriad of ad hoc delays already imposed by the White House on the rollout makes a stubborn refusal harder to explain.  The latest delay came just two days ago.  If this is such a disaster that the White House has to keep issuing delays piecemeal, why not put the whole thing off a year in order to fix all the problems before forcing Americans into the exchanges?
The medical device tax is another unpopular element that the Senate voted to remove … in a non-binding vote.  That would kill some of the funding for the exchanges, though, and without a replacement would force the White House to either shift funds or delay the subsidies for a while, even without the one-year delay.  Democrats who voted to repeal the tax to answer rising anger from constituents — Senators like Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, for instance — will have to explain stripping it out when it could have meant something, rather than just offering lip-service opposition to the tax. Franken has to answer for that vote next year, as will other Democrats from states redder than Minnesota.
Again, this is all political brinksmanship.  The Democrats and the media will level harsh criticisms of the GOP trying to shut down the government despite the GOP now passing two bills that would fund everything but Obamacare, and on the second they're not defunding it but delaying it until it is "ready" to go (ahem, ahem).  The real question is whether or not the GOP will fold when crunch time really hits, or if the Democrats will blink because killing this second bill will be too hard to defend.

All the while, Obama has once again pledged not to negotiate with Republicans on anything, though he has no problem negotiating with Iran or Russia upon request.  It seems that this statement by White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer explains why:
”We are for cutting spending. We are for reforming out tax codes, reforming out entitlements,” Pfeiffer told Jake Tapper. “What we’re not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest. We’re not going to do that.”
(Actually, they're not for cutting spending or reforming entitlements - they're just for saying they're cutting spending and reforming entitlements...but that's beside the point of including the quote.)  According to the White House, it's Republicans who are terrorists, not actual terrorists who kill people.

All cleared up now?  Good.

Anyway, the White House is talking veto, and Democrats in the Senate are claiming this second bill is DOA, leading to an inevitable shutdown of the government.  The Senate's harsh words might be taken more seriously, of course, if they bothered to show up to work over the weekend.  Yeah, yeah, it's a weekend...but their words of a catastrophic worldwide meltdown in the event of a U.S. government shutdown ring just a wee bit hollow with them all being, you know, not there.  Some of the Dem leadership couldn't even be bothered to be there for the House vote, either.

But it's all the Republicans' fault, you see.  They're the ones refusing to compromise and thus ruining the world.

Oh, sorry, did I just spoil tomorrow's headlines?  Oops.  My bad!

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