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Upping the Ante

[ 46 ] February 14, 2017 |

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The stakes in the ACA war keep getting higher:

Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus voted among themselves Monday night to band together and support only an Obamacare repeal that is at least as aggressive as a bill the House and Senate passed in 2015, putting GOP leaders in a bind with their conference and perhaps even threatening the possibility of passing a repeal.

The group of roughly 35 to 40 House conservatives voted to take this official position ― meaning it received the support of at least 80 percent of the members and is therefore supposed to be the position of all lawmakers in the group ― amid some GOP consternation that Republicans ought to focus more on repairing the law rather than repealing it, as well as amid heavy voter pressure in many districts to leave the law intact.

“If it’s less than the 2015 [bill], we will oppose it,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told a small group of reporters Monday night.

Meadows added that the Freedom Caucus would encourage replacing Obamacare at the same time Congress repeals it but that if GOP leaders put the same 2015 reconciliation bill gutting major parts of Obamacare on the floor, conservatives in the group would support it.

The 2015 repeal bill removed the Medicaid expansion that is popular in many red states ― including among many Republican governors ― and repealed the individual and employer mandates. The bill also removed the law’s subsidies and the taxes that helped to pay for them. In short, it would disassemble Obamacare.

On the one hand, this makes it more likely that the ACA survives largely unscathed, because unless Republicans are willing to blow up the filibuster repeal of the Medicaid expansion is DOA in the Senate, and it won’t be easy to pass in the House either. On the other hand, it means that if repeal does pass it will probably be a complete catastrophe.

One thing to add is that for all the credit John Roberts gets for not endorsing most of the neoconfederate claims against the ACA, the Medicaid expansion would almost certainly be safe had he not ineptly re-written it based on a transparently incoherent theory. The Freedom (sic) Caucus might inadvertently save it, but if most red states had taken the expansion it would be almost completely safe.

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  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    One thing to add is that for all the credit John Roberts gets for not endorsing most of the neoconfederate claims against the ACA, the Medicaid expansion would almost certainly be safe had he not ineptly re-written it based on a transparently incoherent theory.

    Which is precisely why he rewrote it, no?

    • Scott Lemieux

      I dunno. If destroying the ACA while doing minimum damage to the Republican Party was his goal, he would have just struck down the whole thing.

      • bs

        I think Roberts cares less about the Republican party, and more about corporate supremacy. PPACA was a massive wheelbarrow of money given to the insurance companies in the form of subsidies, with a few excellent provisions, such as banning recission and the denial of insurance due to “preexisting conditions”. If Roberts could have scribbled out those bits while preserving the massive windfall for the industry, he would have. What he did was preserve the massive giveaway to his corporate patrons, while laying the groundwork for chipping away at the good parts.

  • Domino

    Not like I have any confidence in them, but haven’t Collins and Murkowski stated that defunding Planned Parenthood is a non-starter for both of them?

    Republicans have told lies for the past 6 years re: the ACA, and now they’re faced with reality, and they can’t give everyone in America ice-cream, a pony, and a mansion like they said they could.

    • humanoid.panda

      I remember back in November people were laughing at me when I said the GOP won’t be able to quickly and painlessly defund Planned Parenthood..

      • Domino

        Probably a lot of doom-and-gloom right after Donnie short fingers won. Luckily, he’s as arrogant as he is incompetent, and incredibly lazy to boot.

      • nadirehsa

        What’s frustrating about those patting themselves on the back for their lack of panicking is that they give the impression, possibly unintentional, that this was all inevitable. But the difficulties Republicans are facing in passing their agenda is a function of the resistance efforts being undertaken, and I imagine most of that effort is by panickers.

        If the message is “Things are dire, but do not lose hope: we can win if we work hard and resist,” I agree. But it seems the message is actually, “Trump is bad, but really everything is fine.”

        • Rob in CT

          HP has been pushing the first line, not the second.

          Hitting the everything is awful line too hard can lead to despair, which isn’t helpful.

        • humanoid.panda

          “If the message is “Things are dire, but do not lose hope: we can win if we work hard and resist,” I agree. But it seems the message is actually, “Trump is bad, but really everything is fine.””

          Well, in my case, my argument was always: there are enough forces in American society that resist the GOP agenda to significantly slow it down, if not totally derail it. And I think the counter-argument “it doesn’t matter because republicans will simply disenfranchise us all” is defeatist and destructive of the spirit of resistance.

          • FWIW, my argument hasn’t ever been “The Republicans will disenfranchise us all”, but rather, “The Republicans will disenfranchise us all, given the power.” The prospect of an unchecked Sessions DOJ should be terrifying to everyone who can think and should be resisted through every possible legal channel.

  • humanoid.panda

    I don’t remember where I read it with avalanche of news, but I understand that there are a number of GOP senators that are a hard no on Medicaid expansion repeal- until at least Mitch starts working on them.

    Also, this reality highlights a flaw in your “this is not like the 1970s” argument, Scott. What seem to us like tiny disagreements about how exactly to drown the state in a bath tub, might seem like real chasms to GOP-ers, and grind things down quite a bit.

    • Rob in CT

      It does seem like unity is a lot easier in opposition. When you have to actually do things (and own them, completely), those cracks widen.

      Good.

      • humanoid.panda

        Yeah. I think there are 2 ways to read the years 2009-2016: first is that GOP is a monolith absolutely immune to rules of political gravity, and the other that they figured out how to be an effective opposition party in a polity in which power is dispersed, but electorate believes it resides solely with president. Early returns indicate that the second reading is more accurate.

        • humanoid.panda

          Couple of days ago, someone made the argument that Republicans solved American politics, and someone else replied that they figured out a hack. I think its a brilliant distinction, because figuring out a hack doesn’t mean you control the system.

          • To be fair, though, Republicans control a propaganda arm that doesn’t have an equivalent on the left, and probably isn’t even possible there due to the ideological differences owing to a number of factors (among them: rich people aren’t going to be inclined to fund something that serves the left; the left in this country isn’t as prone to authoritarianism or the same kinds of conspiratorial thinking, though we do have our share of conspiracy-minded wackos).

            • humanoid.panda

              True, but also true that only a relative handful of people , all of who are already Republicans, watch Fox News. The Flynn thing is a case in point: all along, and even know, Fox insisted there is no problem, and that it’s all about the swamp sabotaging Trump. And still, he is gone..

              • Right, but the lack of consistent, partisan messaging from a source trusted by our whole side does mean that our situations won’t be symmetrical. They will have advantages we don’t (but at the same time, we may also be able to find advantages they don’t have).

                • humanoid.panda

                  Right. On the most basic level: the TP, with the entirety of Fox News at its back, could put couple hundred thousands on the streets, and the slogans were mouthing were basically meaningless to centrist people. The decentralized women’s march put 4 million people on the streets, in the name of things most Americans believe at.

                • That seems like a fair summation.

          • Murc

            Couple of days ago, someone made the argument that Republicans solved American politics, and someone else replied that they figured out a hack.

            That was me, yeah.

            To be clear: when I say that I think the Republicans may have solved American politics, what I mean is they may have discovered that ideology and competence in governing actually mean jack shit in terms of allowing you to either maintain, or preventing you from returning to, power in fairly short order.

            And that’s a big, big deal if its true, because it means they can structure their party and their ideology any way they want to and it won’t prevent them from winning elections. Part of grade-school civics, indeed, part of our national mythology, is that if you govern well, you’ll retain power, and if you govern poorly, you’ll lose it. The latter seems to still be true, to an extent; the former seems like it just might straight-up be untrue.

    • AdamPShort

      Republican “hard no” often seems to be in need of some of the pills routinely advertised on conservative radio.

      • humanoid.panda

        At the very least, this makes the whole process last longer. And delay is really key to victory here.

    • sigaba

      What seem to us like tiny disagreements about how exactly to drown the state in a bath tub, might seem like real chasms to GOP-ers, and grind things down quite a bit.

      “Drowning the state in the bathtub” was always a slogan to mask the utter disagreement over what that actually meant, what it would look like, and who’s oz was going to get gored.

      Everybody of a certain persuasion wants to drown the state in the bathtub, after all, who doesn’t love drowning things in the bathtub? But does that mean power to the states to become Gileads, or does it mean corporate baronies? And exactly which people are we going to bomb and torture in the process?

      And of course most Republicans didn’t want either of these things, they wanted some moderate position, but at the same time they attacked the legitimacy of the government whenever it moderated their position. So now when a Republican gets half a loaf from the government, he’s programmed to interpret that as corruption and evidence of the failure of the liberal democratic state.

      • Hob

        “whose oz was going to get gored”

        I like this typo. Pay no attention to the man behind the bathtub!

    • Scott Lemieux

      I’ve never said that ACA repeal would be easy. It is still enormously likely that this Congress will accomplish a lot more than the Dems did under Carter. If “tax reform” fails, we can talk.

  • DrDick

    I love it when the monsters start devouring their own tails. I wish them well in this endeavor.

  • Cheap Wino

    Good thing the teahadis are essentially a bunch of idiot ideologues who 1) are incapable of understanding how to play the political game beyond threaten to hold their breath until they turn purple unless they get their way (analogous to the green party bleating about single payer or nothing), and 2) are uninterested in actually governing/fail to understand the disconnect between ideology and actual governing. Stupidity could work out to save some lives!

    • humanoid.panda

      But then again, I think they do realize something important: The ACA for the first time in American history introduced the idea that it was the federal government’s reponsility to guarantee all citizens with access to health insurance. Everything short of a full repeal perpetuates this principle, and makes healthcare debate about how exactly to do that- and that’s a debate Republicans can’t win.

      • DrDick

        That cat is already out of the bag and is not going back in.

    • JKTH

      It was also a saving grace for the last few years of Obama’s first term. It helped torpedo a few shitty deals.

  • JKTH

    unless Republicans are willing to blow up the filibuster repeal of the Medicaid expansion is DOA in the Senate

    …Why is that exactly? The 2015 bill didn’t require blowing up the filibuster. Is it what HP says above that enough Senators wouldn’t support repeal?

    • Hogan

      In 2015 everyone knew the bill would be vetoed. That’s no longer the case.

  • The 2015 repeal bill removed the Medicaid expansion that is popular in many red states ― including among many Republican governors

    How much power do governors have over the representatives and senators from their states?

    • humanoid.panda

      Depends on circumstances, really, but Senators are nearly always parts of complicated party machinery, not independent actors. Case in point is Ohio, where Kasich, who made Medicaid expansion centerpiece of his “moderate” shtick, is close ally of Portman.

      • Yeah, but are they independent actors, or can the governor tell them to STFU.

        • Manny Kant

          Senators can vote however they want. They’re not employees of the governor.

        • efgoldman

          are they independent actors, or can the governor tell them to STFU

          Nobody (almost) in US politics is an independent actor. There are veto points and interdependencies everywhere from town councils right up to DC. The governor may control the state party machine, for instance, but the senator is the one that brings home the sweet federal money so the governor can put up signs “Another Road Improvement brought to you by the State of Confusion, Fred Farkel, Governor.”

  • vic rattlehead

    Here’s hoping that the Freedumb Caucus goon squad really is overplaying their hand as it seems. Oooh you greedy motherfuckers

    • efgoldman

      the Freedumb Caucus goon squad really is overplaying their hand

      Ever since the great electoral disaster of 1994, the RWNJ Republiklowns have specialized in overreach.
      Of course a real Speaker would corral the kkkrazy kkkaukus, make a cosmetic compromise or two, and get a bill passed. But we haven’t had a real speaker since 2010.

      You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Isn’t the time for what used to be routine raising of the debt ceiling, coming up soon?

  • NoMoreAltCenter

    I am cautiously optimistic now that the worst damage of the Trump administration will be Gorsuch, war against Iran, runaway climate change, and gross increases in wealth inequality

  • Joe_JP

    In a fantasy world where some Republicans worked with the Democrats to pass ACA (and various amendments did involve Republican votes, some from what I can tell leaving something to be desired), I think the Medicaid expansion (the one big piece of the legislation clearly strongly Democratic, the mandate etc. a sort of mixture) very well could have been voluntary. Who knows, but I think in a sane world, that is how it would have went down.

    • humanoid.panda

      And it that world, I think more than 40 states, with maybe couple of Deep South states as holdouts, would have joined by now. Because really, you need to be a moron no too.

      • efgoldman

        Because really, you need to be a moron no too.

        And your point is?

  • Joe Bob the III

    Republicans have a 47 seat majority in the House. So in theory, all 35-40 members of the Freedumb Caucus could cast a protest vote and the Republicans could still pass ACA legislation that was short of repeal – even with zero Democratic support. Republicans could write off the Freedumb Caucus and still bring an ACA repair bill to a vote even with the Hastert rule.

    So, does the Freedumb Caucus get put in the corner or not? Granted this is a wild-eyed liberal talking, but it seems like if the Republicans want to hold on to their current Congressional majority for any length of time they need to demonstrate they are capable of operating as a competent governing party – something they have not done since, by my estimation, the Eisenhower administration.

    • 35 Republicans would cancel out a 70 seat majority (do the math). If 35 Republicans voted with all the Democrats against a “repeal and replace” bill that bill would be defeated 229-206.

      • Redwood Rhiadra

        More to the point, the House Freedom Caucus has the power to take down the Speaker. And they’ve proven it, because that’s exactly why Paul Ryan is Speaker instead of Boehner.

        Destroying the ACA is the literal Number One issue of the HFC – it’s the very reason they exist. They *will* get what they want, because Paul Ryan doesn’t want to lose his job.