A rash of news stories have been published this week examining howthe GOP will handle things if the Supreme Court votes next month tooverturn the Affordable Care Act. Amazingly, they all leave out thesingle most important and obvious impact a court rebuke would have.Hint: It's not about Republicans. In two separate posts for New York magazine, Jonathan Chait calls out the GOP for having no realintention of offering anything of substance or consequence in placeof Obamacare, should it be struck down by the court. Chait remindsreaders that this runs counter to the repeal and replace rhetoric Republicans have been using for the past several years. ( PHOTOS: Supreme Court Health Care Protests in Pictures ) Brian Beutler of TPM says that if the Supreme Court rules against the health care law, theGOP could be on the losing end: House Republicans will find themselves on the horns of a dilemma.They will be implicitly responsible not just for the demise of theindividual insurance mandate and other unpopular parts of theAffordable Care Act, but also its popular provisions and the returnof some of the insurance industry s harshest practices, likediscriminating against people with pre-existing medical conditions. |
In the New York Times , Robert Pear and Jonathan Weisman report on some Republicans' plans to mitigate political risks theymight face if the problem of the uninsured takes center stageagain. If the law is struck down, Pear and Weisman report,Republicans say they'll resurrect a lot of old ideas. TheGOPers quoted in the article offer vague concepts like If you getthe costs down, then you get more people with coverage and Thestatus quo is unacceptable. One House Republican leader tells the Times , Our wheels are beginning to turn.
In Politico, Jennifer Haberkorn and Jake Sherman say the GOP strategy on how to react to a Supreme Court rejection ofthe Affordable Care Act "represents an aggressive posturefrom House Republicans. It seeks to shelter them from criticismfrom the left that they re leaving uninsured Americans out todry." Philip Klein, of the Washington Examiner , reports that House Budget chairman Paul Ryan says his party actuallywon t propose a huge package of health care proposals at all ifthe health law is wiped out but will offer a vision for healthcare reform instead. Reading these pieces together, one might conclude that if amajority of the Supreme Court decides the Affordable Care Act isunconstitutional, attention will immediately turn to Republicansand what their next move will be. Beutler even implies Republicanscould find themselves on the defensive. This is hooey.
Votersdon t see Washington in granular enough terms to hold members ofCongress to vague catchphrases like repeal and replace. Theoverarching narrative will be something far simpler. PresidentObama s signature domestic achievement will suddenly becomeillegitimate. ( MORE: Is Obamacare Constitutional? ) A central part of the Republican narrative against Obama is thathe s an overreacher.
(See: spending, regulation, etc.) Nothingwould fit into this story line more perfectly than a Supreme Courtrejection of Obama s signature domestic achievement. You can seethe attacks coming from 100 miles away: this lefty, radicalPresident a constitutional scholar no less! cast aside thelaw in an effort to further his own dangerous ideological agenda. Sure, Obama supporters will say that the court is partisan. Yes,there will be press releases, rallies and TV ads spotlighting sickAmericans, including innocent children, who won t be able to gethealth insurance without the Affordable Care Act.
And, if theSupreme Court overturns Obamacare, we can absolutely expectDemocrats to remind voters that Republicans never had and stilldon t have a plan for how to rein in health care spending andexpand coverage But the American public never exactly demanded a plan for healthcare reform in the first place. It s been on the list ofDemocratic priorities for years, of course, but Obama the candidatetalked far more about ending the Iraq war and economic unfairnessthan fundamentally upending the U.S. health care system. Yet,shortly after taking office office, and against the advice of some leaders in his own party, Obama decided to pursue healthreform. This took courage or hubris, depending on whom you ask but no one believes Obama did it because it was the most popularissue.
And it s hard to argue that the American public, which isstill split on health care reform, will demand Republicans take upthe cause in 2012. ( MORE: Inside the Supreme Court: Why Obamacare Supporters Are Getting SoNervous ) Plus, as Chait points out, health care is complicated. You can tcover significantly more people without spending more money ordiverting resources from other things. This is why the AffordableCare Act contains hugely popular provisions and hugely unpopularones.
The first column contains things like guaranteed coverage forpeople with pre-existing conditions and the elimination of genderdiscrimination in insurance-policy pricing; in the second columnare things like the individual mandate and huge funding cuts toMedicare. No sensible Republican is going to pivot from a SupremeCourt decision overturning the Affordable Care Act to a GOP-brandedhealth care overhaul that includes such political peril. That mightbe the only scenario that would make a court rejection of Obamacarea win for Democrats. Some have argued Republicans will have no choice but to try andpreserve pieces of the health care law that have broad support,like the provision that allows adult children up to age 26 to getcoverage on their parents' policies. But it s not clear thatlosing this piece of the health care law will have majorconsequences.
Nothing says insurers can t offer this coveragevoluntarily young healthy people are valuedcustomers and lots of states already had similarregulations even without the Affordable Care Act. Yes, losing a lawforcing insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions couldpresent a political problem for Republicans, but this piece of thelaw hasn t even kicked in yet, making the loss far less meaningfulfrom the public's standpoint. Elections are about swing voters. Absent a horrible Republicanmisstep, does anyone really believe undecided voters won t put aSupreme Court loss in the Romney column? Ignore those who saythere s a significant downside for Republicans in a court loss.It s spin.
MORE: Why Obamacare May Stand: Reading Justice Kennedy, the SupremeCourt s Swing Vote.
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