FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
A Second Chance for Republicans
Now that the entire country sees the ten-alarm fire that has set our healthcare system ablaze, Democrats feel compelled to do something. Their Mr. Fix It plans are akin to an arsonist posing for a photo op with a 2-liter pitcher of water to put out the wildfire. Will Republicans continue to pose with them in the photo op or will they kick them aside and smother the fire?
There are two clear observations about Obamacare at this point: it cannot be fixed and it will not collapse on its own. As we are now seeing from the cancelled insurance plans, the industry has been working on revamping the insurance market for three years. Obamacare has already collapsed the healthcare system. It can only be rebuilt by completely repealing the law.
Similarly, the law won’t go away by itself. They will fix the website one day, and the mandates and regulations on insurance will continue to force people into dependency on subsidies and Medicaid expansion. Worse, on the actual healthcare side of the equation, scores of doctors will leave the field of medicine due to the onerous burdens that go well beyond the insurance regulations. Yes, in some sense you can refer to this as a collapse of the system, but that is exactly what Obamacare was designed to do with its inexorable path towards single-payer.
As we’ve said many times, we cannot afford to wait until the website is fixed and the dependency takes root. It’s tempting for Republicans to just sit back and enjoy the polling data, but polling data will not get rid of the law. Polls are not elections. And even 2014 will not save us. In the best case scenario, we will have 51 seats in the Senate with a unified filibuster-strong Democrat minority that, when coupled with the wayward Republicans, will give Senator Harry Reid a defacto majority. Moreover, President Obama will still be president. Waiting until 2017 is simply unacceptable.
In a sane world, Republicans would utilize this time to force the issue on Obamacare using our leverage points, not just to talk about it or help Democrats fix it. One challenge conservatives had with making Obamacare the centerpiece of the October budget showdown (aside for Senate Republicans sabotaging the effort) was that Republicans failed to prep the ground for the fight over the past few years. In fact, thanks to Mitt Romney, Obamacare was not part of the political discourse for an entire two years.
That has all changed over the past month. While we were stymied by fellow Republicans during the actual showdown, we did succeed at restarting the national discussion on Obamacare. The ensuing breakdown of the private insurance market has given us tailwinds like never before. For the first time in Obama’s presidency, even some of the low-information voters have finally realized the failure of Obama and his signature legislation. Moreover, we know now that the shutdown polling was off base and superficial.
Accordingly, it makes no sense why Obamacare should not be a part of the budget discussions. Most people have forgotten or don’t know that the budget impasse was not solved last month. The new budget deadline is January 15 and the new debt ceiling is February 7. The deadline for reaching a budget conference deal is just two weeks after Thanksgiving.
But, alas, we have no leverage. Senator Mitch McConnell has made it clear to Senate Democrats that he would never fight any budget or debt ceiling. They have completely echoed the scandalous Democrat talking points about default. In fact, they have publicly declared that they will lash out at conservatives who try to fight Obamacare and prevent endless increases or “suspensions” of the debt ceiling.
Consequently, even with Obama’s approval rating sinking into the 30s, and Obamacare as toxic as ever, Democrats have no reason to fear the budget deadlines next year. The only points of contention are locking in the sequester cuts that were already locked in and extending super-long-term unemployment benefits for yet another year. When it comes to fighting Obamacare, it’s all hat and no cattle.
At the very minimum, conservatives need to push for two concessions:
- Even if they already surrendered the budget battle, they must secure an agreement from Democrats to pass all of next year’s 12 appropriations bills in regular order and go to conference on each bill individually. This will lay the groundwork for fighting Obamacare in one or two bills without having the rest of the government as collateral damage in a shutdown. That would give us the opportunity, at the very latest, to fight Obamacare right before the mid-term elections without the specter of a full government shutdown.
- Republicans always said they wouldn’t mind fighting just the debt ceiling because there is no direct government shutdown. Well, now is the time to start debunking the myth of default and committing to ending this practice of suspending the debt ceiling law. The debt ceiling fight will coincide with the period of time when American workers begin to receive their first paychecks for 2014. Most people will incur a large bite out of their pay due to the increased withholdings for higher premiums. This will augment the public disquiet that is already brewing from the destruction of private insurance.
Any Republican who blithely ignores Obamacare when it really counts and when we really have leverage does not deserve your vote. Obamacare will not collapse on its own. We must force the fight once and for all – without the full-scale sabotage campaign from the GOP establishment.
Cross-posted at The Madison Project