Republicans should let ObamaCare destroy itself
It's time conservatives stopped trying to delay or defund the president's unpopular health-care reforms, and let Americans judge this trainwreck for themselves
The federal government has shut down.
The GOP-led House did abandon its earlier demand that the Affordable Care Act be defunded in exchange for passing a new budget (or continuing resolution) to keep the government running, and instead asked for a one-year delay in ObamaCare's individual mandate.
Don't expect success for the House Republicans trying to force concessions on ObamaCare. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has rejected any negotiations at all on the continuing resolution, demanding a clean funding bill or a House vote on a returned CR with all of the ObamaCare conditions stripped out by the upper chamber. The Senate is not going to play ball with the House on this.
That means we will have the first government shutdown in 17 years. Both sides will get plenty of blame for the problem. Who gets how much blame is as much a point of contention as the funding battle itself. Democrats and the media remind Republicans that they ended up taking the brunt of the 1995-96 shutdowns over the budget with Bill Clinton, a fight they lost while controlling both chambers of Congress rather than just one. At least that was the received wisdom at the time, after then-Speaker Newt Gingrich ended up retreating and brokering an end to the standoff after several weeks of a federal government shutdown.
But not so fast, argues Harry Enten at the Guardian. Clinton's landslide re-election in 1996 can easily be attributed to the economic recovery that was well underway, rather than the shutdown. Polling showed that Clinton and Congress both suffered slight drops in approval ratings during the shutdown itself, and Clinton's resurgence in approval came later in 1996. Congressional approval also rebounded later, although not to the same extent. More to the point, Republicans went into the showdown already 19 points below Clinton on the budget issue, whereas President Obama only has a three-point edge over Republicans now.
Democrats argue further that the 2012 election gave Obama a mandate to proceed with ObamaCare, but that doesn't convince Rothenberg Report's Nathan Gonzales. Obama won re-election, but with an electorate that opposed ObamaCare 49/44, according to exit polling, which was very similar to the 48/47 of the 2010 election.
In the following 11 months, polling on ObamaCare has declined considerably. A year ago, the New York Times/CBS News poll showed a 42/46 approval on ObamaCare. Last week's poll showed it at 39/51. A new CNN poll that arguably showed Republicans more at risk in a shutdown also showed support for the ACA at 38/57, with majority opposition in almost every demographic in the survey. Obama's own standing on health care has declined in the NYT/CBS survey to 40/54. That may be why the president hinted Monday that he would be willing to work on a deal, while declaring that a compromise "simply requires everyone to act responsibly." At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered to push a one-week clean CR to give everyone more time to negotiate.
But don't expect the deal to include the defunding of ObamaCare or a one-year delay of the bill, as House Republicans tried to do Monday, even though Obama should be leaping toward the latter. With costs exploding and the exchanges stumbling across the country, a one-year delay would probably benefit Democrats more than the GOP.
Indeed, if Republicans can't stop ObamaCare now, they may be better off just getting out of the way of the nearly inevitable crash — a political crash, if not organizational.
A huge amount of political damage awaits the White House and Democrats running in midterm elections. Health-care prices are skyrocketing over 2013 premium rates, a fact that HHS tried to dodge by claiming that the exchange prices came in "lower than projected," when in fact they had compared the prices to projections for 2016, not 2014. Former Romney adviser Avik Roy and the Manhattan Institute ran the actual numbers and found that prices rose across the board by more than a third, and by 97 percent for younger men (55 to 62 percent for younger women), and that subsidies won't make up the difference for many if not most of them.
The White House then tried to argue that the monthly premium rate would be negligible under the exchanges no matter how much they've gone up. Obama himself said that the exchanges would allow consumers to buy "good health insurance for the price of your cellphone bill or less." The Associated Press pointed out, though, that the "bronze" plans Obama referenced required a lot more out-of-pocket costs for consumers as well. "Those who choose bronze will have to pay 40 percent of their medical bills out of pocket through deductibles and copayments," the AP wrote in its fact check. "A family's share of medical costs could go as high as $12,700 a year, or $6,350 for individuals, on top of those cell-phone-like premiums." The upcoming price bomb will hit in the three months of open registration for the January 1 mandate deadline, when all of these expectations of lower premiums and better coverage come crashing down on the 85 percent of Americans who had health insurance four years ago, when 87 percent of those liked their coverage just fine.
At this point, why should Republicans fight to delay that illusion-busting event for another year? Without control of the Senate, the GOP cannot force a delay or defunding of ObamaCare. Their best strategy now is to get Democrats on the record re-endorsing the individual mandate and the congressional exemption provided by the White House to the unpopular bill — and then get out of the way.
If the ACA proves anywhere near as disastrous as the price hikes show and the sudden recasting of expectations hint, the last thing Republicans want is any potential blame for the train wreck by delaying the inevitable. By the time the 2014 midterm elections roll around, voters will have a clear understanding of who to blame for the disaster.