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Pretending to Have a Plan is a Kind of Plan, But Not a Plan to Insure People

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I think it’s obvious that the response of federal Republicans and the vast majority of state Republicans should the Supreme Court willfully misread the law and wreck the majority of state exchanges would be “nothing.” As I mentioned last week, Jon Chait disagrees, saying that “Congress probably would be forced to act, and if it fails, many or most states would capitulate very quickly.” He cites this report from Byron York as evidence.

But as evidence that the Republicans will mitigate the damage, this couldn’t be weaker. The piece has to be evaluated in light of the obvious agenda that both York and the people using him have: to game the Court by pretending that siding with the Troofers wouldn’t really do any harm, and to set up to blame Obama for the damage inflicted by Republicans in the judicial and legislative branches. This agenda wouldn’t matter if York had the goods, but he doesn’t. The giveaway is Barrasso’s comment that “[w]e’re not going to help the law, but we’re going to help the people, so they are not left in the lurch.” If you’re not willing to help the law, then people are going to get left in the lurch and people are going to get hurt. And there’s no question about how congressional Republicans are going to resolve this tradeoff.

And just in case there was any doubt, Barrasso, Hatch and Lamar! have an op-ed that makes it as clear as can be that the “plan” is to pretend to have a plan. This is the most they’re willing to pretend to be willing to pass:

We would provide financial assistance to help Americans keep the coverage they picked for a transitional period. It would be unfair to allow families to lose their coverage, particularly in the middle of the year.

So, at most, people will get to keep their subsidies until their policy comes up for renewal, at which point the figurative death spirals and the literal deaths will start. The B/H/! plan deals with that with the typical Republican non-proposals: i.e. deregulating state insurance markets. This alternative is abysmal on the policy merits, but it’s beside the point. Republicans wouldn’t pass it, because let-them-eat-state’s-rights works a lot better as rhetoric than as policy put into practice, and in an alternate universe where the GOP would pass it Obama wouldn’t sign it.

And I don’t think there’s even much of a chance that Republicans could even pass a temporary extension. As Kilgore says, the ridiculous inability of Republicans to get the DHS founded should really give away the show here. You could also consider the Republican House immigration meltdown in 2013. Immigration reform has much broader interest-based and ideological support within the party than the insurance tax credits, the level of opposition is not as intense, the political benefits of passing something clear, and they couldn’t pass anything. You think House Republicans are going to put their political careers on the line to “save Obamacare”? Please. It’s not happening. If the Court reverses King v. Burwell, the only question is the scope of the disaster.

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