Republican Secret Plan To Repeal Obamacare
|Sen. Mitch McConnell at CPAC 2013|
Frates writes, “A few minutes after the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision upholding President Obama’s health care law last summer, a senior adviser to Mitch McConnell walked into the Senate Republican leader’s office to gauge his reaction. McConnell was clearly disappointed, and for good reason. . . . But where some saw finality, McConnell saw opportunity — and still does. Sitting at his desk a stone’s throw from the Senate chamber, McConnell turned to the aide and, with characteristic directness, said: “This decision is too cute. But I think we got something with this tax issue.”
“He was referring to the court’s ruling that the heart of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the so-called individual mandate that requires everyone in the country to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, was a tax. And while McConnell thought calling the mandate a tax was ‘a rather creative way’ to uphold the law, it also opened a new front in his battle to repeal it. McConnell, a master of byzantine Senate procedure, immediately realized that, as a tax, the individual mandate would be subject to the budget reconciliation process, which exempted it from the filibuster. In other words, McConnell had just struck upon how to repeal Obamacare with a simple majority vote.”
“The Kentucky Republican called a handful of top aides into his office and told them, ‘Figure out how to repeal this through reconciliation. I want to do this.’ McConnell ordered a repeal plan ready in the event the GOP took back control of the Senate in November — ironic considering Democrats used the same process more than two years earlier in a successful, last-shot effort to muscle the reforms into law.”
“By Election Day,” Frates writes, “Senate Republicans were ready to, as McConnell put it, ‘take this monstrosity down.’ ‘We were prepared to do that had we had the votes to do it after the election. Well, the election didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to,’ McConnell told National Journal in an interview. ‘The monstrosity has ... begun to be implemented and we’re not giving up the fight.’”
Looking forward, Frates notes, “Indeed, when it comes to legislative strategy, McConnell plays long ball. Beginning in 2009, the Republican leader led the push to unify his colleagues against Democrats’ health care plans, an effort that almost derailed Obamacare. In 2010, Republicans, helped in part by public opposition to the law, won back the House and picked up seats in the Senate. . . . But, in the next two years, Republicans are looking to bring the issue back in a big way. And they’ll start by trying to brand the law as one that costs too much and is not working as promised.”
He adds, “Democrats will be tempted to continue to write off the incoming fire as the empty rhetoric of a party fighting old battles. But that would be a mistake. During the health care debate, the GOP’s coordinated attacks helped turn public opinion against reform. And in the past two years, no more than 45 percent of the public has viewed Obamacare favorably, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s tracking polls. . . . During the legislative debate over the law, Democrats promised Obamacare would create jobs, lower health care costs, and allow people to keep their current plans if they chose to. Those vows, Republicans argue, are already being broken.”
Indeed, Townhall.com’s Guy Benson notes a segment CNN aired last night, where Wolf Blitzer asks, “Here’s a question: Were Americans misled about the costs of Obamacare?” He continued, “The president has long pledged that his health care law would reduce premiums and raise benefits. Now, the Obama administration is conceding that some people will have to pay more—potentially even a lot more—for health insurance coverage.” In the segment, CNN White House Correspondent Briana Keilar adds, “A new study by the Society of Actuaries, which number-crunches insurance costs, estimates insurance companies will pay on average 32% more for claims on individual insurance plans because of Obamacare. Some states fare worse: The report says California will see a 62% increase by 2017; Wisconsin and Ohio and 80% increase. Those costs, the report, says, will be passed on to consumers.”
Benson explains, “This report was prompted by two stories we've covered this week: (1) Kathleen Sebelius' belated admission that some Americans will, in fact, see their premiums rise due to the "Affordable" Care Act, and (2) the American Society of Actuaries' determination that insurers will see claim pay-outs on individual plans rise by 32 percent as a result of the law. This wasn't how things were supposed to be, according to the administration's deeply dishonest sales pitch.”
But of course, Keilar notes, “The Obama administration is criticizing the accuracy of this study. . . . But the society itself is nonpartisan and it says it stands by the numbers and the analysis. I will say, Wolf, that I spoke with an independent health policy analyst who says he doesn’t think the report is biased in that way that is alleged by the White House . . . .” Benson writes, “Yes, that report really included a clip of a White House lackey assailing a nonpartisan actuarial organization for rudely producing rigorous estimates that deviated from the president's preferred narrative. Obama vs. math -- how thoroughly appropriate.”
In the National Journal piece Frates points out, “The Congressional Budget Office, the Hill’s nonpartisan scorekeeper, estimated that the health care law would reduce employment by about 800,000 workers and result in about 7 million people losing their employer-sponsored health care over a decade. The CBO also estimated that Obamacare during that period would raise health care spending by roughly $580 billion. McConnell’s office has assembled the law’s 19,842 new regulations into a stack that is 7 feet high and wheeled around on a dolly. The prop even has its own Twitter account, @TheRedTapeTower. . . . ‘Constituent pressure is overriding the view that virtually all Democrats have had that Obamacare is sort of like the Ten Commandments, handed down and every piece of it is sacred and you can’t possibly change any of it ever,’ McConnell said. ‘When you see that begin to crack then you know the facade is breaking up.’
“In the meantime,” Frates writes, “Republicans will continue to, as GOP Sen. John Barrasso put it, ‘try to tear (Obamacare) apart.’ And the GOP suspects it might get some help from moderate Democrats less concerned about protecting Obama’s legacy than winning reelection.
“It’s just the latest act in a play that saw McConnell give more than 100 floor speeches critical of Democratic reforms and paper Capitol Hill with more 225 messaging documents in the 10 months before Obamacare’s passage. Away from the public spotlight, McConnell worked his caucus hard to convince them to unite against the law, holding a health care meeting every Wednesday afternoon. GOP aides said they could not remember a time before, or since, when a Republican leader held a weekly meeting with members that focused solely on one subject. “‘What I tried to do is just guide the discussion to the point where everybody realized there wasn’t any part of this we wanted to have any ownership of,’ McConnell recounted.”
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