Republicans will clobber Obamacare — until they hug it
The incomparable Ezra Klein offers a FASCINATING THEORY:
Republicans have done everything possible to keep Obamacare from getting up and running smoothly. They’ve refused to sign off on any budget that includes the necessary money for implementation. At a hearing last week where Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana warned of a “train wreck” if the rollout wasn’t effectively managed, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the committee, attacked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for implementing the law with existing funds.
“A quick review of the HHS budget in brief seems to suggest that you are diverting funds from other areas of the department to put toward implementation,” Hatch said. “Would you describe the authority under which you believe you have the ability to conduct such transfers and whether or not you believe the Congress should be notified when these transfers occur?”
Consider the implicit argument there. The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, and the Obama administration is legally bound to implement it. Having denied the necessary funding to do so, Republicans now want to hinder the administration’s ability to transfer other funding, to ensure that Obamacare becomes the disaster Republicans have promised.
The more horrendous the rollout, the more effectively Republicans can run against Obamacare in 2014. That might work: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Obamacare end up as a net negative for Democrats in the 2014 election — much as Medicare Part D was for Republicans in 2006. But by the 2016 presidential election, it’s likely to be a law that Democrats brag about and Republicans scamper to get behind. And the final act of this depressing little political play will be Republicans embracing this policy that they did everything to destroy, and trying to build on it.
Don’t believe it? Some Republicans are already arguing that Ryan’s Medicare premium support plan simply brings Obamacare to Medicare. “The great irony of Obama’s triumph, however, is that it can pave the way for Republicans to adopt a comprehensive, market-oriented healthcare agenda,” wrote Avik Roy and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, two influential Republican policy advisers. They argue that “both Representative Paul Ryan’s ‘premium support’ proposal for Medicare and Obamacare’s exchanges are modeled on the Swiss system,” and that Republicans should push to have Medicare beneficiaries “gradually migrate into the exchanges’ premium-support systems.”
See? Republicans can go from arguing that Obamacare should be repealed to arguing that it needs to be expanded in a flash. But not until they’ve squeezed every political benefit from making its implementation disastrous.