Ed has a post coming up on Mike Pence’s meeting with House Republicans this morning, in which Pence told them that Trump will jump-start the process of repealing ObamaCare via executive order. No surprise there — but it makes this new series of tweets curious.
“Is PEOTUS suggesting Republicans put off action on Obamacare repeal in order to let it ‘fall of its own weight’?” wondered Bloomberg reporter Sahil Kapur. That’s how it reads to me — let’s not jump the gun by repealing the law while a case can still be made, sort of, that the program is viable. Let’s hold off for now; then, when O-Care begins to break down, the public will realize that we need a new system and will support us over Democratic objections. You can fit that into a “repeal and delay” strategy with some effort: Trump wants to repeal the law now, perhaps, and merely hold off on a replacement plan until ObamaCare has collapsed under its own weight. But I’m not sure that would work politically. If the GOP passes a repeal bill, insurers might start to abandon the now-doomed exchanges immediately; if O-Care then starts to break down, Democrats will turn around and claim that it was repeal that triggered the collapse and therefore Republicans are actually to blame for the law’s failure after all.
Here’s another cryptic bit of news that emerged from Pence’s meeting this morning:
Message in the Pence meeting with the House GOP is that they're on "a rescue mission" for Obamacare, rather than repealing and killing it.
— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) January 4, 2017
That fits with the “let’s not be hasty” tone of Trump’s tweets, but Paul Ryan’s spokesperson chimed in to say that it’s not true and other Republicans who were in the meeting have claimed that Pence was more forceful on repeal than Fuller’s tweet implies. Which makes sense, as there’s really no benefit in holding off. Even if the congressional GOP waited awhile to repeal (which the Republican base would never tolerate) and the ObamaCare death spiral began happening organically, just as Trump predicted, they’d still take flak from some voters for not having acted sooner to replace a failing system when they had the chance. There’s no perfect solution in avoiding the partisan blame game. No matter what Republicans do, Schumer’s going to roll out his little slogans and Democrats will go on saying that the law would have straightened out if only the GOP had given it the chance it deserved to work, etc etc.
In fact, Trump’s stance here makes the coming Republican dilemma on what to do about the exchanges even harder if they follow the “repeal and delay” approach. Once repeal passes, insurers will come to Ryan and McConnell and say that they have little reason to keep offering plans in the exchanges for the next few years while the GOP comes up with a replacement — unless, that is, Congress makes it worth their while by promising to bail them out if they suffer losses by staying put. Trump, however, is telling Ryan and McConnell not to do anything that might shift blame for ObamaCare from Democrats to Republicans, which presumably includes a bailout. So what does Congress do? If there’s no bailout, the exchanges could collapse rapidly, before a replacement system is ready, whereupon Democrats will screech that that collapse never would have happened if not for repeal. If there is a bailout, Republican voters will be angry that their own party is propping up Obama’s system and Democrats will screech that Republicans have finally bought in to protecting ObamaCare. There are liberal attack lines either way.
Incidentally, it wasn’t just Pence holding meetings on O-Care on the Hill this morning. Here’s a dispatch from the saddest place in Washington:
President Obama gave a “nostalgic” speech about Obamacare to Democrats on Wednesday, but was light on specific strategies Democrats could employ to save it, according to a Democrat in the meeting.
Obama met with House and Senate Democrats Wednesday to reminisce about the law, which Republicans have already started efforts to dismantle.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., told reporters Obama gave a “very nostalgic” speech but said he would leave it up to them to map out a strategy to prevent Republicans from destroying the law.
That’s the perfect capper to Obama’s presidency. His party has been left so weakened that they’re not in a position to even spitball obstruction scenarios. All they can do is sit around sharing memories about the greatness that was once Hopenchange, like a basket of left-wing member berries. ‘Member when Obama had 60 votes in the Senate and decided to spend his political capital on a gigantic health-care boondoggle instead of gun control or immigration reform? I ‘member!