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“The Political Consequences?: Will Republicans Suffer Politically If The Supreme Court Strikes Down ObamaCare? Don’t Count On It

Next month, the Supreme Court might rule in King v. Burwell that the Affordable Care Act does not make subsidies available on insurance exchanges established by the federal government. In a rational world, this argument would be laughed out of court, as even former Republican politicians and congressional staffers have suggested. But that’s not the world we live in.

So it’s worth considering the political fallout if the Supreme Court’s Republican nominees throw the U.S.’s health care market into chaos. The short answer is that, with some notable exceptions, Republicans could very well get away with it.

The policy consequences of such a ruling are much clearer: It would be a disaster. Without subsidies, the vast majority of people would not be able to afford insurance, and therefore would not be subject to the mandate to carry insurance. As a result, younger and healthier people would drop out of the insurance market, creating an actuarial death spiral in which more and more expensive policies are offered to fewer and fewer customers — until the exchanges collapse. Millions of people stand to lose their insurance as a result.

This, of course, is why Congress did make subsidies available on the federally established exchanges. It certainly didn’t go to the trouble of creating a federal backstop that was designed to fail. And until a few libertarian fanatics willfully misread the law as a Hail Mary in their legal war on the ACA, nobody on either side of the aisle involved in the bill thought otherwise.

Should Republicans be careful what they wish for? Possibly. “Fear of change has been the right’s most powerful weapon in the health-care wars since they began under Harry Truman,” writes New York‘s Jonathan Chait. “Seeing their weapon turned against them is a frightening sensation, one they are likely to experience many times again.” The GOP “might be better off if the court just left the law as is,” agrees The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent. Even The Wall Street Journal editorial page is worried.

The idea that destroying ObamaCare would be politically counterproductive is superficially plausible. Any such decision would be a 5-4 opinion with only Republican-nominated judges in the majority, over at least one lengthy dissent. The Republican-controlled Congress could restore the subsidies by passing a one-paragraph bill, as President Obama will surely emphasize repeatedly.

Congress could try to pass the buck to Obama by passing a “fix” loaded with poison pills that the president would have to veto, but I agree with Chait and Sargent that the Republican conference is too dysfunctional to pull this off. And when Congress fails to act, overwhelmingly Republican-controlled statehouses could solve the problem by establishing their own exchanges — could, but in most cases won’t.

So a Republican Supreme Court takes health insurance away from millions of people, and Republican-controlled governments fail to take simple steps to solve the problem. That has to be a political disaster for the GOP, right?

Not necessarily. “If the Obama Administration loses in the Supreme Court,” argues New Yorker legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, “the political pain will fall almost exclusively on the president and his party.” And counterintuitive as it might seem, political science favors Toobin.

The problem is that a separation-of-powers system dilutes accountability, and voters generally lack the information that will allow them to sort out the blame for a given disaster. Presidents generally get both more credit and more blame for what happens under their watch than is justified by their power.

This is reflected in the fact that the ACA — a statute that required immense congressional skill on the part of Democrats to pass — is commonly known as ObamaCare. To voters who aren’t Democratic partisans, Republican assertions that Obama is at fault for any bad outcomes that arise from ObamaCare will carry a lot of weight. The media, which tends to give credence to even hare-brained Republican notions out of a misguided effort to remain balanced, is unlikely to make it much clearer.

It may also seem as if Republicans would take the rap for a decision written by a bare majority of Republican-nominated justices, but this overlooks how little the public knows about the Supreme Court. Only a little more than a quarter of the public can name the chief justice. The vast majority of voters will have no idea whether the decision was 5-4 or unanimous, let alone the partisan details of the split. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg might write her greatest dissent, but it’s hard to imagine it changing many minds, given that only a tiny minority reads Supreme Court opinions and almost all of them know what they think about the case beforehand.

So in general, I do think Toobin is right. Republicans in Congress and in deep red states can probably avoid any consequences. But there is one twist. Republicans are most vulnerable in states with federally established exchanges that are led by the GOP, but tend to swing to the Democrats in presidential elections. Voters in those states are more likely to blame Republicans for not establishing a state exchange.

As it happens, one such state is Wisconsin, whose governor is a frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2016. The Republican primary electorate will prevent Scott Walker from signing a bill establishing a state exchange, but his refusal will make it harder for the GOP to duck the issue. In this instance, it might be harder for Republicans to deflect responsibility to Obama than it would be otherwise.

Ultimately, the political consequences of a Supreme Court ruling against the government are difficult to predict. But what we know for sure is that it would be best for the Supreme Court to uphold ObamaCare — so we don’t have to find out.

 

By: Scott Lemieux, The Week, May 27, 2015

May 30, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, King v Burwell, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“An Unexploded Ordnance”: Why Republicans Secretly Hope The Supreme Court Will Save Obamacare

Because a Supreme Court decision for plaintiffs in King v. Burwell would impose extreme hardship on Affordable Care Act beneficiaries in 34 states and leave President Obama’s signature achievement in a frightening state of limbo, the law’s supporters are united in opposition to such a ruling.

And for the same reason, most analyses of the consequences of an adverse King decision have centered around the practical nightmare the ruling would create: How would states react? Congress? Insurance companies and providers? Obama himself? Will the pressure to fix the problem grow severe enough to force Republicans into surrender or to cut a reasonable deal?

These are important questions. But individually and combined, they hint at a premise that the aftermath of an adverse King ruling will exclusively effect, and be driven by, existing stakeholders. They neglect that the case itself, which will be decided in late June, is an unexploded ordnance lying in the middle of the 2016 presidential campaign field. An adverse King ruling wouldn’t just introduce familiar, crisis-driven legislative politics. It would likely become the defining issue of the Republican primary and general election. It would leave Republicans strategically and substantively divided over how to contain the fallout. And it would transform Obamacare as an issue from a modest liability for the Democratic candidate, into a factor that unifies the entire party against Republicans and the Supreme Court.

Because movement conservatives have signed on enthusiastically to the arguments of the King case, they convey the impression that the right is poised and eager for the Court to do their bidding. But activists and elected officials have different imperatives, and if you immerse yourself in the Republican Party’s posture toward this caseits public attestations, blind quotes, and conspicuous silencesa much more nuanced picture emerges. If the Court grants Republicans a “victory,” many actual Republicans won’t consider it a victory at all, and the competing concerns of anti-Obamacare zealots, industry-friendly pols, swing state incumbents, governors, and presidential candidates will break out into the open.

Democrats would obviously rather win than lose this case, and Republicans vice versa. But the truth is, as one anonymous GOP congressional health care aide conveyed to TPM’s Sahil Kapur, “In fact: King wins, they [the Obama administration and Democrats] hold a lot of high cards. And we hold what?”

That’s just one anonymous aide. But a lot of Republicans are privately “joking” that they’d be happier losing this case than winning.

Some Republican insurance commissioners take a dim view of the King case publicly. Others have communicated their squeamishness by keeping their heads down.

States on both side of the issue have filed briefs with the Supreme Court. But only six red statesOklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, South Carolina, and West Virginiajoined a brief on behalf of the petitioners. Conspicuously missing are deeply conservative states like Texas, with large beneficiary pools, or any swing states under GOP control. Republican senators from many of those statesincluding Wisconsin, Ohio, and Floridaare in cycle in 2016.

By contrast, the following states have signed on to a brief supporting the government: Virginia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Many of these are healthcare.gov states, and thus have a direct stake in the outcome.

The outcry for a fix will be broad, sustained, and lockstep, but it will meet wildly different audiences. Everyone in the GOP primary field will face extensive pressure to treat an adverse decision as an opportunity to get rid of the law altogether, but some of them will be governors or former governors who won’t be as amenable to using constituent suffering to leverage an unrealistic political goal. Republican Senate candidates from the above-mentioned Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida, but also from Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Illinois and elsewhere, will quickly see their political fortunes become entwined with the cause of fixing Obamacare.

As chaos grows, it will be tempting for these Republicans to claim that they and the broader right bear no culpability. Obama and Obamacare did this to them. But that message won’t wash outside of precincts where antipathy to the president already runs extremely deep. Elsewhere it’ll be drowned out by a simple but forceful argument, promulgated by people with much larger megaphonesand by the fact that everything was basically OK until five Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices intervened. Unlike Republicans, the team of organizers, lawyers, and political operatives who have banded together to save the ACA have adopted a strategy that precludes them from discussing their political contingency planning. But it stands to reason that Obama and Clinton would both lay the damage at the feet of those justices, and the party on whose behalf they had acted. The ruling would create a hydra of loyal but politically disengaged Obama supporters, consumer groups, health care providers, and other actors, none of whom will be satisfied with Republican excuse-making and inaction.

That returns us to the related question of whether Republicans would respond to the pressure by betraying the conservative base. Would they fix the law? Or perhaps patch it temporarily? Generally speaking, Republicans only break faith in this way when persisting would invite unsurvivable political damage. The various debt limit and government shutdown fights of the Obama years are the most similar precedents. But there are others. In recent years, Republicans proved they were willing to allow extended unemployment benefits to lapse, and the payroll tax holiday to expire. By contrast, they also revealed that they preferred to allow taxes on top earners to increase rather than explain to the broader public why they allowed taxes to increase up and down the income ladder.

In Arkansas, a now-retired Democrat expanded the state’s Medicaid program dramatically. The GOP-controlled legislature has since balked at multiple opportunities to rescind the expansioneven as its majority grew and a Republican moved into the governor’s mansion this year.

Which is the long way of saying that gaming this out is tough. But the question will be whether a ruling for King plaintiffs puts Republicans on their heels briefly, or whether it dominates campaign politics through November 2016.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, February 9, 2015

February 11, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, King v Burwell, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Conservative GOP Governors Are Accepting Obamacare”: Wagging A Finger With One Hand, Holding Out The Other Hand For The Money

Many GOP governors who loudly condemned Obamacare are secretly signing up for the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Expansion. And they aren’t just Republicans in Democrat states. A growing number are from Southern conservative states, like Alabama and Tennessee.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced his state would oppose Obamacare, saying that he would rather have any money sent to his state go to private insurance, according to Bill Barrow with the Associated Press. But after getting reelected, Haslam announced that he had struck a deal that would allow that Medicaid expansion, according to Dave Boucher with The Tennessean.

Ditto Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who once claimed that “the anything but Affordable Care Act has done nothing to gain our trust,” according to Tom Baxter with Saporta Report. But there was Bentley, after getting easily reelected, claiming “he could support the expansion in the form of a block grant, with a lot of strings attached,” Baxter writes.

In other red states, Republicans are doing the same, wagging a finger at Obamacare with one hand and holding out the other hand for the money. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback condemned GOP Governors for taking the Medicaid expansion money, as noted on his own website. But then, buffeted by a deficit from ill-advised tax cuts, Brownback took the money, calling it something else, in order to balance the budget, according to Salon.

It is unlikely that Representative Mike Pence cast many votes in favor of Obamacare while in Congress. But as Indiana Governor, he’s signed on to the Medicaid expansion, according to Dana Milbank from the Washington Post.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer joined her name to the lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. But then, she signed up for the dollars from Washington, DC after dodging a primary challenge, as reported by CBS.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, another Republican, had few kind words for Obama or the ACA. But once it was clear that he wouldn’t face a primary challenger, Scott took the money, according to the Miami Herald, hoping to boost his reelection chances. He was able to hold onto the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee as a result.

And it was Ohio Governor John Kasich who called for repealing Obamacare, well, at least most of it. Now he’s saying it is here to stay, as noted by CNN, and other Republicans better get used to it being around.

Michael Hiltzik with the Los Angeles Times is reporting that even Texas is considering the Medicaid expansion, modeled after Utah’s acceptance of the ACA plan.

There are a few reasons for this. While the House of Representatives and Senate can pass repeal after repeal votes, governors have to balance budgets. Also, many of these governors talk the conservative talk to beat back or forestall Tea Party primary challengers. Given that only a dwindling number of these are succeeding, there’s no need to kowtow to this group after reelection. They can use some creative accounting to accept the money, or call it something else so it will have a lower profile (Alabama could call it Bamacare, for example).

Of course, this is bound to infuriate the most conservative members of the Republican Party, but only if they are paying attention. Besides, this is still the party of Jeb Bush, who was linked to a firm that benefited from Obamacare, as reported by The Daily Mail. It’s also the party of Mitt Romney, whose Romneycare had many similarities to Obamacare, according to health expert Brad Burd.

 

By: John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga; The Blog, The Huffington Post, December 31, 2014

January 2, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Republican Governors | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Tough Reality Of Politics For Women”: Learning From My 2014 Mistakes; A Year Of Reckoning For Democrats

Thanksgiving is a great time for writers to reckon with whatever we got wrong over the year – and to be grateful that in this day and age we get to write every day, and put mistakes behind us quickly. So with the 2014 midterm election rapidly disappearing in the rearview mirror, I thought I’d reckon with my one big political mistake this past election cycle, as well as one big thing I got, sadly, right.

In July 2013, long before the midterm, I wrote this piece: “Red state women will transform America.” I was pretty darn excited about the prospect of Wendy Davis, Alison Lundergan Grimes and Michelle Nunn stepping up and running in Texas, Kentucky and Georgia. In hindsight – or maybe even at the time – I showed some irrational exuberance. So did a lot of Democrats.

Maybe more significantly, I participated in wishful thinking shared by many more Democrats – believing that the women’s vote is the party’s ace in the hole and that, in addition to solid support from non-white voters, it will give them a lock on the White House, and will even turn red states blue over time. I’m less optimistic about that now. The Democrats’ continuing troubles with white women, and white married women, doomed all three once-promising white female Democratic candidates.

Of course, none of them were perfect candidates. I will always be grateful for Davis’s brave filibuster of horrible Texas anti-abortion legislation. But I overestimated her political skills. Reams have been written about her poor campaign; I don’t need to kick her here. In the days before the election, silly #tcot folks tried to pretend I’d written my Davis praise recently, not more than a year before the race. But I did get overexcited.

Likewise, Grimes wasn’t quite the pro I thought she was, although she had admirable political skills. Michelle Nunn, who actually came closest to being elected of the three, had little to recommend her besides her father’s famous name and her detachment from partisan bickering thanks to a career in business, not politics.

Even at the time, I overlooked what is still the tough reality of politics for women: Frequently, they get their big political breaks only when more experienced men size up a race and find it too dangerous. I still believe Texas will turn blue again, but state and national Democrats knew it wouldn’t happen in 2014. In Kentucky, experienced pols like Rep. John Yarmuth and Gov. Steve Beshear didn’t take on Mitch McConnell. And in Georgia, ambitious Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed knew he was at least a cycle too early for Georgia to turn blue.

I’m not blaming any of these men, by the way, for making the women in question sacrificial lambs or scapegoats. But the truth is, women often get their big “chances” when they run as sacrificial lambs. I should have reined in my optimism about their political potential much sooner.

My faith that white Democratic women could win over red state white women voters was particularly misplaced. CNN exit polls showed that Michelle Nunn lost white women to David Perdue 69-27; Wendy Davis lost them 66-31; Alison Grimes lost them 55-41. For now, the Democrats’ oft-touted advantages with “women” – which should always be described as “all women except for white women” — are outweighed by their difficulties with whites.

Right now, for complicated historical, cultural and racial reasons, white women vote more like “whites” – mostly Republican, though less than white men – and less like other women. Single white women and college-educated white women defy that trend more than others, but any 2016 prognosticating that relies on white women as Hillary Clinton’s secret weapon shouldn’t be trusted unless there’s data behind it. And I haven’t seen any.

What did I get right? Well, lots of things, if I do say so myself, but the most obvious late-cycle story was that Republicans and Fox News were ginning up a minimal Ebola threat as a powerful political weapon  – and too many mainstream media outlets, and even Democratic politicians, participated. In the post-election mayhem, this seemed like too small a point to raise, but as we start bidding goodbye to 2014, I couldn’t resist it. I’d like to say Democrats learned from this one, too, but again, I’m not sure.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes looked at media overkill on Ebola, especially at Fox and CNN (and also at the fact that it did nothing for ratings, which is heartening). Of course the right was disgusting, with Michael Savage dubbing Obama “President Obola” (the genteel Daily Caller settled for “President Ebola,” trusting their readers to get the African association with the Kenyan Muslim president’s unusual name).

Mainstream media skipped the name-calling, but went along with the hysteria: ABC News dubbed Ebola “the official October surprise,” and on CNN Don Lemon asked if it was “Obama’s Katrina.” Within a few weeks, though, Ebola was gone from our shores (though not from West Africa), the few American cases successfully contained by competent public health officials – but the story of its disappearance (let alone the media’s malpractice) went virtually uncovered.

In the end, CNN exit polls showed that while the public, early on, thought the federal government was doing an adequate job handling the threat, by election night that had shifted – 50 percent of voters polled disapproved of the federal government’s handling of Ebola, while 44 percent approved. Democrats lost so badly it’s unlikely that Ebola made the difference in any race. Still, it’s worth remembering how conservative and even supposedly moderate Republicans used Ebola politically – and how the media let them get away with it.

Sure, Senators-elect Tom Cotton and Thom Tillis were particularly insane on the topic, suggesting terrorists with Ebola might cross the Mexican border and combining the GOP’s three primal fears: terror, disease and swarthy illegal immigrants. But let’s take a moment to remember 2016 contender Gov. Chris Christie’s craven posturing, quarantining “Ebola nurse” Kaci Hickox when she came back from a trip treating Ebola patients. Christie dared Hickox to sue him: “Whatever. Get in line. I’ve been sued lots of times before. Get in line. I’m happy to take it on.”

The dignified humanitarian health worker won the round, getting released to her home in Maine and declaring Christie’s move not the “abundance of caution” he said it was, but “an abundance of politics.” Democrats could learn from Hickox; too many cowered in the face of GOP (and media) demagoguery on the small threat posed to Americans by the disease. Vulnerable Democrats Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Udall of Colorado and Mark Pryor of Arkansas all defied Obama and came out in favor of travel restrictions on people coming from Ebola-plagued nations; all lost their races anyway.

Even in real time it was obvious what Ebola panic was designed to do, but voices who said exactly that were drowned out by hysterics. And when hysteria prevails, the GOP wins. That dynamic trumps the Democrats’ demographic advantages and will for a while. Democrats lose when they’re overconfident about demography and underestimate the power of fear. I was one for two on those issues last cycle; I’ll try to do better next time around.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, November 28, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

December 1, 2014 Posted by | Democrats, Politics, White Women | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“One Silver Lining For Liberals”: As Democrats Fall, Minimum Wage Thrives On Election Night

Democrats suffered a series of disastrous defeats on election night, decisively losing their Senate majority and falling short in several gubernatorial races in which they hoped to defeat Republican incumbents. But there was one silver lining for liberals: Tuesday’s elections proved, once again, that the minimum wage is a winning issue.

Initiatives to raise the minimum wage appeared on the ballot in four reliably Republican states. In all four, they passed easily.

Even as Alaskans appeared to boot Democratic senator Mark Begich out of office — he has declined to concede the race — they still overwhelmingly voted to raise their state’s minimum wage to $9.75 per hour. Tellingly, although his future colleagues in the Senate have steadfastly opposed any efforts to raise the federal minimum wage, Republican senator-elect Dan Sullivan announced in September that he would support the state initiative. This was a flip-flop from his position in the Republican primaries, and probably had something to do with polls showing the measure’s overwhelming popularity in the Last Frontier.

Similarly, Republican Tom Cotton’s easy victory over Democratic senator Mark Pryor didn’t stop Arkansans from boosting their minimum wage to $8.50 per hour. Like Sullivan, Cotton decided not to oppose the overwhelmingly popular measure. Although he voted against raising the federal minimum wage as a congressman, he announced in September that he would support the state hike “as a citizen.”

In South Dakota, Republican Mike Rounds easily defeated Democrat Rick Weiland and Independent Larry Pressler. But voters still raised their state’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour. Rounds opposed the measure, while his opponents supported it.

And in Nebraska, Republican Ben Sasse defeated Democrat Dave Domina in a landslide, even as voters raised the state’s minimum wage to $9 per hour. Although Sasse opposed the measure, he avoided discussing the issue on the campaign trail.

More than half of the states in the nation now have minimum wages higher than the federal level.

Clearly, even in red states, there is broad support for one of the key planks of the Democratic economic agenda. But, just as obviously, it was not a determining factor in how midterm voters cast their ballots. This presents an opportunity for congressional Republicans.

The next round of Senate campaigns will take place in a far more liberal battleground than Tuesday’s elections did — and, if history is a guide, they will feature a more liberal electorate. This will put blue-state Republicans like Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) in jeopardy. One easy way for them to blunt the economic attacks sure to come their way on the campaign trail would be joining with Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage.

While the House of Representatives has refused to consider a minimum-wage hike in the past, they may have a different attitude when the bill is coming from a Republican-controlled Senate. After all, they supposedly want to prove that they can govern. And, as Tuesday’s elections prove, conservative voters are unlikely to punish them for giving working families a boost.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, November 5, 2014

November 8, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Midterm Elections, Minimum Wage | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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