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Democrats own Obamacare, and its political cost keeps rising

Democrats own Obamacare, and its political cost keeps rising

Nothing is free in politics, but there is some question when you pay the price.

That’s been a saying of mine for many years, though I may have unconsciously plagiarized it from someone else. I think it applies to Obamacare.

My American Enterprise Institute colleague Norman Ornstein has been shellacking Republicans for trying to undercut the implementation of the Obama health care legislation. He calls it “simply unacceptable, even contemptible.”

He points out that Republicans in the past haven’t tried to undercut or derail major legislation of this sort.

That’s correct, as a matter of history. You won’t find any concerted drive to repeal and replace Social Security after it was enacted in 1935 or Medicare after it was passed in 1965. In contrast, Republicans proclaim they want to repeal and replace Obamacare.

They don’t agree on tactics. Some Republicans want to vote to defund Obamacare spending while continuing to fund the government otherwise. Others argue that would be a futile gesture and politically damaging.

The two sides have taken to calling each other names — the suicide caucus and the surrender caucus. But both want to get rid of Obamacare because they think it’s bad for the country.

The so-called surrender caucus is surely correct in predicting that Barack Obama and the Democratic-majority Senate will never allow the defunding of Obamacare. The so-called suicide caucus is right to point out that government shutdowns are not fatal to congressional Republicans, who maintained their congressional majorities after the shutdowns in the Clinton years.

Other points are more problematic. The defunders argue that once Obamacare subsidies go out, people will get hooked on them and support for repeal will tank. Their critics argue that there may be so many glitches (Obama’s word) in the rollout of the health insurance exchanges that support will fall below the present low levels.

The fact is that no one knows for sure. But whatever happens, there are good reasons for Republicans to regard Obamacare as a legitimate target.

One is that, unlike Social Security and Medicare, the law was passed by Democrats only, with no bipartisan consultation. Democrats could do that only because accidents — like the later overturned prosecution of Alaska Republican Ted Stevens — gave them a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate.

That’s a contrast with the 2003 Medicare Part D prescription drug bill, which as Ornstein points out Democrats didn’t try to undercut after it was passed. But Democrats were widely consulted during the legislative process, and a non-trivial number of them voted for the final version.

A second point is that Obamacare — unlike Social Security, Medicare and Part D — wasn’t consistently supported in public opinion polls. Quite the contrary.

Please don’t pass this bill, the public pleaded, speaking in January 2010 through the unlikely medium of the voters of the commonwealth of Massachusetts when they elected Republican Scott Brown to the Senate as the 41st vote against Obamacare.

Democrats went ahead anyway, at the urging of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and with the approval of President Barack Obama. They made that decision knowing that, without a 60th vote in the Senate, the only legislative path forward was for the House to pass a bill identical to the one the Senate passed in December 2009.

No one had intended that to be the final version. Democrats expected to hold a conference committee to comb the glitches out of the Senate bill and the version the House passed in November.

Voters had done all they could do to signal that they wanted not a Democratic version of Obamacare but a bipartisan compromise or no legislation at all. Obama and Pelosi ignored that demand.

Under those circumstances, it’s not surprising that Republicans — politicians and voters — regard the passage of the law as illegitimate. And that they believe they are morally justified in seeking repeal and replacement of legislation they consider gravely harmful to the nation.

You may or may not agree with those judgments. But it shouldn’t be hard to see why Republicans feel that way.

Those feelings have been intensified as glitch after glitch in Obamacare come to light — and as the president indicates, contrary to his constitutional duty, that he will not faithfully execute parts of the law.

When they passed Obamacare, Democrats thought they were achieving a triumph free of any cost. Now, as Obamacare founders, they are paying the price.

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor, and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. 

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  • markinalpine

    When Roberts decided to re-write the Democrat position that the “Penalty” for individuals not purchasing health insurance was actually a Tax, not a Penalty, therefore within the Congressional Powers enumerated in the US Constitution, he conveniently ignored the fact that the law as passed was actually “written” when the odious Harry Reid completely gutted a previously passed House bill, and replaced all the language and the title with the language of the “Patient Taxation and Unaffordable Noncare Act,” AKA 0bamaDon’tCare.
    Tax laws must originate in the House.
    Sorry, Chief Justice Roberts, you flunked US Constitution 101 with that decision.
    And whether it is a tax or a penalty, many people will only purchase health insurance because of the coercive effects of this law. Buying health insurance requires negotiating and signing a contract, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t being forced to sign a contract under duress invalidate said contract?

  • Anon

    Well, the president had what, about a two year Senate career and has never run an organization in his life, so this is not an unexpected outcome. He has made the mistake of of equating winning a vote in Congress with winning the approval of the American people. I am sure he saw the signing of that bill as the end of the struggle not the beginning. A rookie / neophyte mistake.

  • GeorgeStGeorge

    How much ObamaDoesn’tCare hurts the Democrats will depend on how much the Republicans can override the liberal media (who are perfectly happy to let King Barack rule at his whim). One good thing about using the Continuing Resolution to shut down ObamaCare is that it will get a lot of media airtime. Of course, the talking heads will side with the liberals and blame Republicans for shutting down the government (as if that were a BAD thing); but who cares? Republicans will only anger those folks who won’t vote for them, anyway. There are millions upon millions of Americans who felt abused by the Democrats for ramming this travesty down their throats. Fighting back, HARD, is the only way Republicans will reanimate their base.

  • StanW

    One way the Right could fight back against ObamaCare is not to defund it, but to make all the waivers illegal and force it to apply to everyone.

  • Dromig10

    Call your congressman or senator and insist that the law is implemented as written. This crap sandwich will make everyone gag when they know the full effect of all its provisions.

    Also insist that the congress and its staffers don’t get the waiver which was just handed out by Odumdum.

  • George

    The whinny GOPigs just can’t let it go.

    Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act by Democrats, Republicans
    widely supported the idea of an individual health care insurance mandate, Newt
    Gingrich being perhaps the chief supporter. Republicans have always preached
    about how people need to take responsibility for themselves, and now that a law
    exists that makes people take responsibility, the GOP is rejecting it simply on
    the grounds that President Obama and the Democrats passed it.

    “Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Repeal
    Obamacare!!!!. ”

    “And replace it with what ?

    Crickets, chirp, chirp, chirp. NOTHING.

    More B.S. from Human Excrement.

  • JayC777

    “Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act by Democrats, Republicans widely supported the idea of an individual health care insurance mandate”
    So, Newt Gingrich is equal to widely.
    ” Republicans have always preached about how people need to take responsibility for themselves, and now that a law exists that makes people take responsibility”
    What a r e t a r d. Only in the mind of !d!ots is having the government be responsible for what medical treatment you get being personally responsible.
    “”And replace it with what ?”
    There have been numerous viable options from Republicans, that you choose to ignore them, shows what mindless buffoon you are. As I have stated to you before … NOTHING would be a better option.
    Is ROTFLMAO at the human exrement, George.

  • Paul Apicella

    Dear Sir,
    The Republican Party is so afraid of President Obama that they will never ever fight him or his policies. Two presidential elections have proved that. Republicans see Obamacare as nothing more than another opportunity for power, real power, Roberts destroyed the Constitution by deciding that we must buy whatever the government decides is good for the politicians not us.
    As you may have guessed, I am a Conservative.

  • redwolf6911

    This fact will make it much easier for the Republicans to get rid of this law too.

  • Dustoff

    Just can’t let go…
    Yet the unions (both) Congress & the staffers so hate this poorly written law, they want out of it. Which O-dumber did.

  • JayC777

    P.S. Forcing me to be responsible for someone elses medical care does not equal making ‘people take responsibility’. Nor, does it make someone who does not want health insurance irresponsible.
    F’n m0r0n.

  • Dustoff

    Nor does it make it ( individual)
    I guess george was thinking the collective type.

  • Timothy Lane

    The individual mandate was indeed considered by some conservatives (including the ever-random Newt Gingrich) as a possible solution to the genuine problem of paying for ER care. Most of them had come to reject the idea before Obama became President. You no doubt have carefully forgotten that Obama opposed it when he ran in 2008 (and was criticized by Slick Hilly for it).

  • Timothy Lane

    Do you think George has let himself notice that, any more than Parsons would in 1984?

  • Timothy Lane

    Or, as an alternative, make all the waivers universal — and permanent. In the end, the goal is to get rid of as much of it as we can, however can legally do so.

  • Dustoff

    Good question… Just pass the darn thing at any cost?

  • Dustoff

    That sounds much better

  • JayC777

    Question for you, Mark. Is anyone filing suit against Obamacare using this as their argument?
    It would be funny to have a supreme court justice declare that one of his preceding rulings was, in and of itself, unconstitutional.

  • justinwachin

    Perhaps the best option would be for Obamacare to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, as originally intended. If this turns out to be a major disaster, it will cause massive losses for Democrats in the midterm elections.

    Our nation is deep in debt. The politicians need to quit talking about fiscal responsibility and actually cut spending to bring it into line with revenue.

    In all fairness to Democrats, the Republicans decided early in the process they were opposed to Obamacare. They chose to sit on the sidelines rather than have a hand in writing the law. I learned a long time ago the value of participating in the creation of policy even if I would vote against it. The participation provides a way to achieve some of my goals, or at least move toward them, if I am unable to defeat the measure when it comes time to vote.

  • bmovies60

    “And replace it with what ?”

    Replace it with the free market system. Where is it written that we have to replace one government program with another?

  • disqus_bt9O5S2j9R

    The Republican leadership has proven that they are too cowardly to oppose Obama even if it means allowing him to violate his oath of office. They lack the courage to efund Obamacare, maybe the NSA tapes are blackmailing them.

  • Rob Hobart

    Oh look, a Lefty troll spewing childish insults. How predictable.

  • gregio

    I, like many conservatives, am waiting with donations and support in hand to see if the “republicans” in both houses have the courage and political will to exact real savings and reform as the price of raising the debt limit. If they can’t get an outright repeal of Obamacare they should at minimum get the bills passed that exempt the citizens as well as the businesses from the “tax” and it better be for more than one year. If the POTUS is allowed to divert money for the implementation of Ocare into “outreach,” code for direct campaign efforts and freebees to attract democratic voters, my republican donations will go back in my pocket, or go toward buying more weapons for home defense.

  • WilburOhoolik

    Well, if you are a congressional staffer, you get subsidized by the federal Gubment. However, I would bet you that the term “congressional staffer” is not clarified in the law. So, can we not all argue that we are all congressional staffers and file as such on our tax returns for our subsidy? OK, I know its not that easy, but this law has so many holes in it that we will all be made criminals sooner or later by inadvertently violating it. What a joke. I think sooner or later all American citizens are going to throw a fit over this law and the ones who shoved it down our throats

  • sashamanda

    If Republicans really believe Obamacare is a disater, they are morally obligated to do everything in their power legally to shut it down. Otherwise, they become complicit, and they become co-owners.

  • jadytemowysi

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    The Republican Party is so afraid of President Obama that they will
    never ever fight him or his policies. Two presidential elections have
    proved that. Republicans see Obamacare as nothing more than another
    opportunity for power, real power, Roberts destroyed the Constitution by
    deciding that we must buy whatever the government decides is good for
    the politicians not us.

  • Ed_USA

    “they become co-owners”

    Not if they go on record with their warning. The House GOP has voted at least 39 time to partly or fully end Obamacare. I think they’ve made themselves clear. We’ve got their message. Now it’s time for them to stand down and let Obamacare sink or swim on the merits. If they actively scuttle it then the can never say “I told you so”. If they actively scuttle it then they own the failure. If, on the other hand, they S T F U and let it play out, then the Dems will own the result, for good or ill.

  • sashamanda

    No, just saying “stop” is not sufficient. The Constitution gave the power of the purse to the House. If they fail to use it, they are actively aiding and abetting Obamacare and are deserving of contempt. “I told you so” doesn’t work in personal life, and it doesn’t work in politics.

  • Ed_USA

    The House GOP has tried 39 times. Is the 40th the charm?

    The few semi-sane Repubs left are correct. By further flogging this particular dead horse the GOP radicals are only hurting themselves and their party. They would be well advised to stand down. But, hey, if you want them to shut down the gov’t in the next couple of months to press their case, then have at it. I’ll enjoy watching the hilarity that ensues.

  • confedgal

    I’m not sure your statement is so. I think he understood that republicans could not get a super majority in both houses so even if it was repealed in the house and senate, he would just veto it.

  • John1966

    Obamacare is the single worst law ever passed in American history. It’s a catastrophe that will destroy America. Its defeat is a necessity, a national emergency. It is time for the Republicans to step up and save America, whatever it takes. Shut down the government, neuter Obama, and ride it out until a Republican-led government can repeal it. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

  • Culture_Warrior

    This stupidity, this nihilism has got to end. – Joe Scarborough.

  • loshombre

    And may the cost to the Democrats soon bankrupt them as Obamacare seems destined to do to many of their constituents. The majority of folks are going to see their healthcare cost increase by double digits. Interestingly, Congress exempted themselves from this fiasco and Obama granted subsidies to their staff because they could not “afford” it. Joe and Jane Sixpack, tough luck! It sucks to be you.

  • okokok

    Republicans Do Damage Control On Their Party’s Vow To Shut Down The Government

    BY AVIVA SHEN ON AUGUST 7, 2013 AT 12:04 PM

    After 40 failed votes to repeal Obamacare, several Republicans are threatening anew to block government funding unless the health reform law gets defunded. This threat is nothing new; Republicans have repeatedly demanded that every appropriations bill include a provision to repeal Obamacare since the law was passed. Tea Party lawmakers in 2011 emphasized how dire the situation was, calling for a“blood oath” to “choke Obamacare.”

    Now, these empty threats are coming back to haunt Republicans who fear they will lose their seats if they take the government hostage. Several new town hall videos show lawmakers grappling with furious demands from constituents to shut down the government like the GOP said was needed to defund Obamacare.

    Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL)
    When confronted by one angry constituent, Schock dismissed his pro-shutdown colleagues for “beating their chests” on cable news without thinking about the real-life consequences. “How many weeks would you go without paying Social Security, and how many weeks would you go without paying the troops?” he asked. “And having a young lady walk into my office, whose husband is over in Afghanistan, who can’t pay her mortgage because I’m shutting the government down because I don’t like the health care law? [...] I’m just suggesting that when you get into a fight, politically, you gotta make sure you’re willing to kill the hostage you got. And I am not convinced yet that that’s a hostage we should take headed into this fight.”

    Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC)
    Pittenger flatly answered “no” when a constituent asked him if he would join the effort to defund Obamacare. Pittenger argued that the vote would be pointless because the Democrat-controlled Senate would never pass the bill. His constituents yelled back that they wanted to “make a stand to get conservatives back on board.” He later released a statement explaining that he would take “responsible steps to defund or replace Obamacare.”

    Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
    At a town hall on Monday, Fortenberry warned of “very significant consequences” should Republicans go forward with their plan, and said “There has to be a better way.” In response, one audience member declared, “We elected Republicans to fight for more conservative policies.”

    Many other prominent Republicans have refused to support the shutdown plan. On Sunday, former vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said “there are more effective ways” to get rid of Obamacare. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) scoffed, “It’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” while Sen. Tom Cole (R-OK) called it “a temper tantrum.” Republican governors have also warned that their state economies would suffer enormously if the party takes the government hostage.