This is, shall we say, an exceedingly interesting choice by Heritage Action — the explicitly political, activist arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation:
[Heritage Action announced] Tuesday it will “key vote” a bill the House is poised to take up that ditches the law’s individual and employer mandates, a number of the law’s taxes and several other components, including an independent panel to cut Medicare costs. That’s because the bill doesn’t fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, including its major spending provisions — the expansion of Medicaid and subsidies for individuals to purchase insurance on the exchanges. By using the reconciliation process to get rid of the healthcare law they hate, Republicans only have to gain a simple majority of Senate votes. But under those rules, only provisions that are tied to spending can be included in the measure…Policy experts agree that using budget reconciliation rules to repeal Obamacare is Republicans’ best chance to put a repeal bill on President Obama’s desk, even though the president is virtually guaranteed to veto it. The move by Heritage complicates the effort, as it puts pressure on conservatives to vote against a bill they had otherwise been enthusiastic about. And by punishing Republicans, Heritage may inadvertently praise Democrats, who plan to vote against reconciliation because they support the healthcare law. [A spokesman] wouldn’t tell the Washington Examiner whether Democrats will get a positive score from Heritage for opposing the bill.
The organization laid out its reasoning in an online post earlier this week:
In the Obamacare fight, reconciliation’s aim is to set a legislative precedent for a Republican president to follow. Forcing a presidential veto of a bill repealing Obamacare will cause every presidential candidate to answer a simple question – what would you have done? Every serious Republican candidate will answer that they would repeal it in a heartbeat. But if reconciliation is simply used to remove a few provisions, it does not provoke the conversation and force a Republican nominee to continue to support repealing Obamacare in its entirety. In addition to leaving one of Planned Parenthood’s main funding sources intact, the reconciliation tool is ineffective in defunding Planned Parenthood because it does not contain sufficient leverage to succeed. The reconciliation tool can only place a standalone bill on the President’s desk, which would be promptly vetoed. But because of the recent Center for Medical Progress videos, there is sufficient political will to carry a defund effort past the finish line.
Alas, if only that last bolded sentence were true. In any case, outgoing Red State editor Erick Erickson has advanced similar arguments on this overall question as well. Some important context: In order to use the “reconciliation” budgetary tool to roll back much of Obamacare — an outcome that conservatives from Mark Levin to Sen. Mike Lee have been clamoring for — the maneuver must result in a net reduction of the deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s math. And the only provisions of Obamacare that are eligible for repeal through this process are the ones directly pertaining to fiscal and budgetary issues. A House Ways and Means Committee spokesman tells me the legislation that is slated to be voted on this week, and against which Heritage Action is lobbying, represents “the best way to repeal the worst parts of the law. The constraints of reconciliation prohibit a repeal of the entire law.” He accurately adds that Democrats have inveighed against the bill, angrily arguing that it would “gut” and “destroy” Obamacare as a whole. This is especially true of the law’s tent pole: The highly unpopular individual mandate tax, which requires all Americans to purchase a government-mandated product, and punishes those who don’t comply. In addition to repealing this foundational element, this bill repeals the law’s employer mandate, repeals the IPAB rationing board, and repeals several of the most harmful (and least popular) taxes built into the law. It would also defund the bulk of Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer subsidies. (Republicans support redirecting those dollars to women’s health centers that aren’t scandal-tainted abortion factories). Though it’s true that the legislation under consideration does not seek to repeal each and every potentially-eligible provision of Obamacare, many conservatives strongly support the measure. Ryan Ellis makes a detailed case, reaching this bottom line conclusion:
H.R. 3762 is a net tax cut. It is a net spending cut. It is a net cut in the deficit and debt. It repeals the most essential parts of Obamacare. It cannot be filibustered by Harry Reid. It causes heartburn in the other team. And it will force President Obama to double down on the most unpopular parts of his healthcare law. It’s a bill House conservatives can and should enthusiastically support.
So long as President Obama is sitting in the Oval Office twirling his veto pen, exactly zero major Obamacare repeal efforts will prevail — although ten different instances of piecemeal erosion have taken place via those dozens of repeal votes liberals enjoy mocking. Therefore, until at least 2017, all significant Obamacare repeal votes will be symbolic. And symbolism for the purposes of messaging and advancing the proverbial ball ought to be undertaken in a smart and strategic manner. Conservatives have demanded that Republicans utilize reconciliation, which Harry Reid and the Democrats used to ram the law through in 2010, to at least get meaningful legislation onto the president’s desk. This bill accomplishes that, targeting some of the law’s crucial and most hated provisions. To “score” against this legislation in such a way that would effectively punish Republicans for voting in favor of a sweeping anti-Obamacare bill (and perversely reward Democrats for opposing something they openly admit would ruin the law) seems like a counter-productive, water-muddying misadventure. Especially in times of divided government, the perfect must not be the enemy of the good. Obamacare is terrible. This bill is good, not perfect — yet somehow it’s being seized upon as yet another occasion to assemble a self-defeating, divisive conservative circular firing squad. That laughing you hear is from the other side of the aisle.
Editor’s note: A version of this item is cross-posted at Townhall.com