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“A Political Disaster Of Unimaginable Proportions”: Why Republicans Wouldn’t Actually Repeal Obamacare

Last week, in a bold example of their governing prowess, congressional Republicans took their 62nd vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and this time they actually passed it through both houses and sent it to President Obama to be vetoed. Naturally, they were exultant at their triumph. Speaker Paul Ryan admitted that there is as yet no replacement for the ACA, but they’ll be getting around to putting one together before you know it. The fact that they’ve been promising that replacement for more than five years now might make you a bit skeptical.

What we know for sure is this: If a Republican wins the White House this November, he’ll make repeal of the ACA one of his first priorities, whether there’s a replacement ready or not. To listen to them talk, the only division between the candidates is whether they’ll do it on their first day in the Oval Office, in their first hour, or in the limo on the way back from the inauguration.

But I’ve got news for you: They aren’t going to do it, at least not in the way they’re promising. Because it would be an absolute catastrophe.

Let’s take a brief tour around the consequences of repealing the ACA. First, everyone who benefited from the expansion of Medicaid would immediately lose their health coverage. According to Charles Gaba of, who has been tracking these data as assiduously as anyone, that amounts to about nine million people. Granted, the working poor are not a group whose fate keeps too many Republicans up at night, but tossing nine million of them off their health coverage is at least bound to generate some uncomfortable headlines.

Then there’s all the people who now get their health coverage through the exchanges that the ACA set up. Remember how fake-outraged Republicans were back in the fall of 2013 because some people with crappy health plans got letters from their insurers telling them that they’d have to sign up for a plan that was compatible with the ACA’s new standards? The truth was that some of them would wind up paying more for coverage while others would pay less, but it was the subject of a thousand credulous news stories portraying them all as victims, to Republicans’ unending joy.

Now imagine that ten million people, the number signed up for private coverage through the exchanges, all had their coverage simultaneously thrown into doubt. Think that might cause some bad press for the party and the president who did it?

There’s more. The ACA also allowed young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26; three million took advantage of the provision. They’d likely lose their insurance too. Oh, and if you’re a senior on Medicare? Get ready for the return of the “doughnut hole” in prescription drug coverage, which the ACA closed.

Let’s add in one more element (though there are lots of the ACA’s provisions we don’t have time to discuss). One of the central and most popular provisions of the ACA banned insurance companies from even asking about pre-existing conditions when they offer you a plan. About half of Americans have some kind of condition that in the old days would mean they either could get insurance but it wouldn’t cover that condition, or they couldn’t get covered at all. If you bought insurance in the old days, you remember what a hassle it was to document for the insurer every time you saw a doctor for years prior. You don’t have to do that now, but if Republicans succeed, we’ll be back to those bad old days. So they can look forward to lots of news stories about cancer survivors who now can’t get insurance anymore, thanks to the GOP.

But wait, they’ll say, our phantom replacement plan has a solution: high-risk pools! This is a common element of the various inchoate health-care plans Republicans have come up with. Anyone who knows anything about insurance knows why these are no solution at all. They take all the sickest people and put them together in one pool, which of course means that the premiums to insure them become incredibly high. As I’ve written elsewhere, high-risk pools are the health insurance equivalent of going to a loan shark: You might do it if you’re desperate and have no other option, but you’re going to pay through the nose. So good luck with that.

Even if Republicans could come together around a single replacement plan, that plan would still be a political disaster. The theory behind their health-care ideas is that once we inject some more market magic into health care, everything will be great. But there are a couple of important things to understand about this idea. First of all, their plans don’t even try to achieve anything like universal coverage. It just isn’t one of their goals, and as a consequence, implementing their plans is going to mean a lot more uninsured than we have now, a reversal of the progress the ACA is made, with millions or even tens of millions of people likely to lose coverage. Second, even if the market mechanisms they use were to work out how they predict—and it’s almost certain they won’t, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for a moment—it would take a substantial amount of time.

In this, the ACA is direct. You can’t afford coverage? Here’s a subsidy, now you can afford coverage. But under Republican plans, more people shopping around for their health care is, over time, supposed to bring costs down, which will eventually translate to lower premiums. But in the meantime, while we wait for the invisible hand to perform its alchemy, millions upon millions of Americans will get screwed. Think there’s going to be a political backlash?

I suspect that many conservatives understand that, but still think that in the long term, their small-government ideas will leave us with a superior system. But that still leaves them with a political dilemma. On one hand, repealing the ACA would be spectacularly disruptive—in fact, unwinding the law will probably be more disruptive than putting it in place was, now that the entire health-care and health-insurance industries have adapted to it—and there will be millions of people victimized by repeal. It will be a political disaster of unimaginable proportions.

On the other hand, they’ve invested so much emotional, political, and rhetorical energy over the last six years into their opposition to this law that they would seemingly have no choice but to repeal it, no matter the consequences. Liberals may argue that the ACA would have been a lot better if it hadn’t worked so hard to accommodate the market-based character of the American health-care system, but Republicans have been telling their constituents that it’s the most horrific case of government oppression since the Cultural Revolution (or as Ben Carson says, “the worst thing that’s happened to this nation since slavery”). They can’t exactly turn around to the people who elected them and say, “Look, I know we said we’d repeal this thing, but that’s going to be a real mess. How about if we just make some changes to it so it works more like we’d like?”

Or maybe they could. Just look what happened to Matt Bevin, the new governor of Kentucky. He ran on a platform of purging the state of every molecule of that despicable Obamacare, but now that he’s in office, things are looking a little more complicated. That’s because Kentucky is one of the great ACA success stories, where the expansion of Medicaid brought health insurance to a half a million low-income people who didn’t have it, and the state’s health-care exchange, Kynect, was a model of success. So Bevin is now backtracking on his promise, saying that instead of just eliminating the Medicaid expansion he’s going to reform it. And Kynect may get the axe (which would mean just turning it over to the federal government), but that won’t happen for quite some time, if at all.

And that’s what I think we’d see if we actually got a Republican president and a Republican Congress forced to deal with the consequences of what they’ve been promising for so long. Once they have the ability to bring down such a health-care calamity on the public, it’s not going to seem like such a great idea. They’ll say they’re as committed to it as ever, while behind the scenes they’ll be frantically trying to figure out how to do something they can call “repeal” but that won’t actually get rid of all the things people like about the law. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a “repeal” bill that, in the name of an effective transition, left much of the law in place, then slowly instituted their market-driven ideas over time. Because there are limits to even what kind of damage an all-Republican government would inflict—if not on the country, then at least on their political fortunes.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, January 10, 2016

January 14, 2016 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“McConnell’s Tea Party Nightmare”: He Can’t Kill Them Because They Run His Party

OK, Sen. Mitch McConnell wasn’t brandishing a rifle at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday in order to shoot Tea Party marauders. The unpopular Senate Minority Leader was just trying to avoid being booed by the crowd, using the most reliable prop on the far right, a gun (President Obama in handcuffs would probably work well too). But the embattled leader did go ballistic this weekend, figuratively, on his party’s restive far-right activists. The Tea Party is not going to be able to knock off GOP senators in red states, McConnell warned.

“I think we are going to crush them everywhere,” McConnell told the New York Times. “I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.”

Not surprisingly, McConnell is starting with his own Tea Party challenger, Matt Bevin. He released a new ad trashing not only Bevin but the Senate Conservatives Fund that’s backing him, charging the group “solicits money under the guise of advocating for conservative principles but then spends it on a $1.4 million luxury townhouse with a wine cellar and hot tub in Washington, D.C.” Wine and hot tubs, you know what that means – these folks are probably just uppity liberal hypocrites in conservative clothing!

But McConnell’s crusade comes a few years too late. Clearly the Tea Party is already the mainstream of his party.  Just last week, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that Republican voters say a candidate’s Tea Party ties make it more likely they’ll support them, by a margin of nearly 2-1. Unfortunately for the GOP, Tea Party affiliation makes the broader electorate less likely to vote for a candidate by about the same margin.

Even some Republicans who the media oddly place in the “moderate” or pragmatic camp don’t belong there. Wisconsin’s scandal-challenged Gov. Scott Walker has bragged about being the original Tea Party in Wisconsin.” In a popular CPAC session using Wisconsin as “the model” for union-busting and right-wing coalition politics, the RNC’s Reince Priebus credited “total and complete unity between the state party, quite frankly, Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party groups, the Grandsons of Liberty. The [Glenn Beck-instigated] 9/12ers were involved. It was a total and complete agreement that …everyone was going to run down the tracks together.”

And while it’s true that Congressman Paul Ryan, endorsed in 2012 by the Tea Party Express as “the strong Tea Party candidate for Vice President,” has had tension with Tea Partiers since he partnered with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray to pass a budget, at CPAC Ryan downplayed the notion of a rift between himself and the party’s right, comparing intra-party debates to a “family reunion” among Irish-Americans. (Actually, nobody in my family wants to take lunches away from poor children, not even the Republicans among us.)

Now it is true that Tea Party challengers in three red states – Kentucky, Mississippi and Kansas – are having a hard time getting traction against reliably conservative GOP senate incumbents. One poll has McConnell up 42 points over Bevin; another has his lead at 26 points. Thad Cochran and Pat Roberts are likewise leading their Tea Party challengers.

But oddly, McConnell – and the Times – don’t even mention Georgia, where five extremists have been virtually tied for the lead in the GOP senate primary to succeed retiring Saxby Chambliss, competing for the opportunity to run against Michelle Nunn. The most extreme of the five, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, just pulled ahead in the last PPP poll. Broun would abolish the IRS, the EPA and the Department of Education, and wants the U.S. to pull out of the United Nations. He’s called evolution and the big bang theory “lies from the pit of hell.” Interestingly though, Broun is the only GOP candidate with a (slight) lead over Nunn in an early head to head match up; the others trail her. Presumably, in a one on one race, Nunn and the Democrats would have a lot to work with battling Broun. He is an early contender to be the Todd Akin of the 2014 cycle.

“I know this: Politics doesn’t like losers,” McConnell told the Times, suggesting defeats in primaries in places like Kentucky and Mississippi would discourage Tea Party insurgents. “If you don’t have anything to point to, it is kind of hard to keep it going.”

But while McConnell has a big lead over Bevin, he’s trailing his Democratic challenger, secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes. It’s far too early to count McConnell out, but it’s worth asking whether the far-right’s animus towards McConnell will make him the ultimate loser in November.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, March 10, 2014

March 11, 2014 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Radicalism For The Sake Of Radicalism”: Four Years Later, The Tea Party Has Learned Nothing

The Tea Party is no longer a brand-new movement in American politics. So, more than four years in, what do they appear to have learned? How about: nothing. And they seem to want it that way.

Certainly that appears to be the case with the Tea Party as an electoral force. Oh, Tea Partyers will remind you – they’ve won some. Ted Cruz in Texas, Mike Lee in Utah, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin – all True Conservatives in good standing (at least last I looked; these things can change rapidly), all solid winners in their election bids. It’s hardly the case that nominating a Tea Party candidate is guaranteed to turn a win into a loss.

But three election cycles in, it’s pretty clear that nominating a candidate favored by Tea Partyers over what they consider “establishment” candidates is a formula for risking Republican disaster. And that it’s not going to change any time soon.

So it was for Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle in 2010. So it was with Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock in 2012. And so it’s likely to be with the 2014 crop.

The thing is, four years is plenty of time to develop solid, seasoned candidates. Indeed, once upon a time Marco Rubio was one of those solid, seasoned candidates. Rubio was a successful Florida Republican who had risen rapidly to become speaker of the Florida House; he then adopted the emerging Tea Party and went on to easily win an open U.S. Senate seat. But Rubio’s Tea Party credentials were tarnished because he actually tried to legislate on immigration; while it’s much too early to declare his career in trouble and it wouldn’t be surprising if he still ran a solid race for the Republican presidential nomination, it’s also very easy to imagine him having to fend off a Tea Party primary of his own if he runs for reelection instead of the White House in 2016.

So what do Republicans have for 2014? Matt Bevin, taking on Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, is a first-time candidate; should he win, Republicans would probably lose that seat. In Georgia, Paul Braun in particular is thought by many to be a particularly weak candidate, capable of losing that open seat to Democrat Michelle Nunn if he emerges as the nominee. In Louisiana, Republicans had settled on a solid candidate to challenge Mary Landrieu, but Tea Partyer Rob Maness has jumped in with plenty of serious organizational support.

Granted, this early in the cycle, none of these candidates has (to my knowledge, at least) managed to embarrass himself by orating on rape. Nor have any of them yet revealed themselves as certified non-witches. Indeed, it’s so early that I don’t even know if they have a history of having said crazy things – although I suspect that Mississippi Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel, a former talk radio host, has furnished enough for a fat opposition research file.

Still, it appears to be no more distinguished of a crop than the 2010 and 2012 versions, and I strongly suspect they will begin to generate equally baroque sound bites as soon as the public portion of the campaign season begins. After all, we just had birther Dean Young, who provided plenty of entertainment if you enjoy politicians saying crazy things, come close to knocking off mainstream conservative Bradley Byrne in the Alabama 1 special election.

There’s nothing about being conservative, even extremely conservative, that would necessarily generate bad candidates. But it’s a mistake to interpret Tea Partyism as simply about being more conservative than mainstream Republicans. Instead, in practice, it’s basically turned out to be a cross between radicalism for the sake of radicalism, along with an extreme suspicion of elites. Which in turn has made it rather easy for hucksters and scam artists to convince Tea Party voters and activists that solid conservatives are really squishes and RINOs. There are no issue positions one can cling to that will prevent those charges; accusations of being insufficiently “conservative” in this atmosphere, to these voters, are impossible to refute.

Indeed, as we’ve seen with Ted Cruz, the very reaction to crazy things that Tea Party politicians say really  is the best proof that they are actually True Conservatives.

Which doesn’t mean that Democrats are about to win a Senate seat in Mississippi (although they would be smart to at least get a plausible candidate on the ballot, just in case). But it does mean that we can expect more of the same from Tea Party candidates – perhaps even worse, since by this cycle, perhaps, raving against rape will be too old hat to get condemned by Rachel Maddow, and therefore not sufficient to establish one’s True Conservative credentials.

And therefore, expect Republicans to continue to give away elections they could have won – and to prove incapable of governing in many cases when they do win. The dysfunctional Republican Party isn’t getting better any time soon.


By: Jonathan Bernstein, The Nation, November 9, 2013

November 10, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Kicking Mules Vs The Lying Turtle”: The GOP Civil War Is Now Basically Between Mitch McConnell And The Tea Party

There will not be another government shutdown, says Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

“It was a strategy that I said both publicly and privately could not work, and did not work,” McConnell told The Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan.

“All it succeeded in doing was taking attention off of Obamacare for 16 days,” he added. “And scaring the public and tanking our brand—our party brand. One of my favorite old Kentucky sayings is that there’s no education in the second kick of a mule. It ain’t gonna happen again.”

This sounds as if he’s vowing to compromise when the resolution funding the government and the debt ceiling issue come up again early in 2014.

And to the Tea Party, that only means one thing: Treason!

The leader knows what the Tea Party thinks of him and he’s ready to take them on, along with his Tea Party challenger, Matt Bevin.

“They’ve been told the reason we can’t get to better outcomes than we’ve gotten is not because the Democrats control the Senate and the White House but because Republicans have been insufficiently feisty,” he told Noonan. “Well, that’s just not true, and I think that the folks that I have difficulty with are the leaders of some of these groups who basically mislead them for profit. . . . They raise money . . . take their cut and spend it.”

And in case that wasn’t clear enough, he called out the Senate Conservatives Fund, one of the key supporters behind Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the plot to defund Obamacare that forced the shutdown.

“That’s the one I’m prepared to be specific about,” he said, adding that the group “has elected more Democrats than the Democratic Senatorial Committee over the last three cycles.”

Tea Party hero Erick Erickson responded to McConnell’s comments on Friday with “Question for Mitch McConnell: Will Any Reporter Ask It?

The Red State editor-in-chief states that “the Senate Conservatives Fund has only helped nominate two Tea Party candidates, who went on to lose the general election.” In contrast, he points out, “On the other hand, Mitch McConnell supported Rick Berg, Denny Rehberg, Carly Fiorina, Linda McMahon, George Allen, and Tommy Thompson. All lost to Democrats.”

This leads to Erickson’s question: “So some enterprising reporter should ask Mitch McConnell this question: Given that the Senate Conservatives Fund has a better record than Mitch McConnell of getting Republicans elected to the Senate, shouldn’t he be supporting Matt Bevin?”

McConnell has successfully been able to persuade Ted Cruz to stay out of primaries. But the Tea Party, Erickson and the Senate Conservatives Fund are going all in.  We’ll see who gets shut down this time.

By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, November 8, 2013

November 10, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitch McConnell Digs A Hole, Falls In”: Frankenstein Has Found That His Monster Is Running Out Of Control

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) talked to a local reporter this week about the Affordable Care Act, which he described as the “single worst piece of legislation passed in the last 50 years in the country.” The Republican senator restated his position that “we need to get rid of” the law.

But McConnell also made an off-hand comment that seemed wholly uninteresting at the time: “I mean, there are a handful of things in the 2,700 page bill that probably are OK, but that doesn’t warrant a 2,700 page takeover of all American health care.”

In 2013, with the right’s hysteria over health care seemingly getting worse, the comments are apparently controversial.

In an ordinary political environment, McConnell’s remarks would hardly be newsworthy…. But the political environment surrounding Obamacare is anything but ordinary — with the ferocious Republican assault on the bill, the party’s exaggerated warnings that it will ruin American freedom, and the base’s determination to scrap every last bit of it. So McConnell’s remarks quickly became fodder for his conservative primary challenger, Matt Bevin, who accused the GOP leader’s of “flip-flop[ping] on repealing Obamacare in its entirety.”

“We have to do whatever it takes to repeal Obamacare, and if we can’t repeal it, we have a responsibility to the American people to defund it,” Bevin said in a statement Thursday, responding to McConnell’s remarks. “If Mitch McConnell had ever worked in the private sector, he might understand that. If Senator McConnell is not willing to act to end Obamacare, he needs to get out of the way.”

So let me get this straight. For reasons that have never really made any sense, McConnell described “Obamacare” as the “single worst piece of legislation passed in the last 50 years in the country.” He vowed to “get rid of” the law. He condemned it (falsely) as a “takeover of all American health care.”

And for some Republicans, this position is too moderate and accommodating.

This is silly, but let’s not overlook the larger context: McConnell helped create this mess in the first place. If he’s annoyed by the inflexibility, the senator has no one to blame but himself.

I imagine McConnell was probably trying to offer himself a little general-election cover by saying “there are a handful of things in the 2,700 page bill that probably are OK.” The more the senator says he wants to destroy the entirety of the law — every letter of every page, no matter how effective or popular the idea — the more vulnerable he is to criticisms from the American mainstream.

Would McConnell take coverage away from young adults who can now stay on their family plans through age 26? Would he scrap protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions? Would he end tax breaks for small businesses? Would he end breaks for seniors on prescription medication? McConnell left himself an out — sure, there are some elements he can tolerate, but he still hates the law.

But McConnell is in a red-state primary fight, and it’s apparently a problem to say anything even remotely supportive of the dreaded “Obamacare.”

Sahil Kapur concluded, “That McConnell is being attacked for his remark illustrates the box Republicans have put themselves in while feeding conservatives’ greatest fears about the Affordable Care Act.” So true. GOP leaders, including McConnell, have to realize that they created this monster — they have spent years telling Republican activists and Republican media that “Obamacare” is a communist/fascist/Nazi takeover that will kill the elderly, destroy capitalism, and quite likely end civilization as we know it.

GOP leaders’ rhetoric has never made a lick of sense — Obamacare is a pretty moderate law, built around mainstream ideas that have traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support — but McConnell and his allies pushed this garbage anyway, in part to keep the Republican base fired up, and in part because it was good for fundraising.

And now Frankenstein has found that his monster is running out of control. Well, Mitch, you probably should have thought of that before.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 15, 2013

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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