Pssst: The super-secret GOP plan to repeal ObamaCare

Just remember when you read this post that I’m the resident optimist at Hot Air.  I’m the blue-sky, sunny-side-of-the-street, glass-half-full contributor to this site. And even I’m having trouble buying this:


Sitting at his desk a stone’s throw from the Senate chamber, McConnell turned to the aide and, with characteristic directness, said: “This decision is too cute. But I think we got something with this tax issue.”

He was referring to the court’s ruling that the heart of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the so-called individual mandate that requires everyone in the country to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, was a tax. And while McConnell thought calling the mandate a tax was “a rather creative way” to uphold the law, it also opened a new front in his battle to repeal it.

McConnell, a master of byzantine Senate procedure, immediately realized that, as a tax, the individual mandate would be subject to the budget reconciliation process, which exempted it from the filibuster. In other words, McConnell had just struck upon how to repeal Obamacare with a simple majority vote.

The Kentucky Republican called a handful of top aides into his office and told them, “Figure out how to repeal this through reconciliation. I want to do this.” McConnell ordered a repeal plan ready in the event the GOP took back control of the Senate in November — ironic considering Democrats used the same process more than two years earlier in a successful, last-shot effort to muscle the reforms into law. …

But, in the next two years, Republicans are looking to bring the issue back in a big way. And they’ll start by trying to brand the law as one that costs too much and is not working as promised.


Don’t get me wrong.  I hope this works, and certainly the news this week that the White House is finally admitting that ObamaCare will jack up rates on healthy, younger people in order to subsidize rates for wealthier older Americans might provide some momentum.  And there are plenty of other arguments against ObamaCare, too, perhaps most especially these from National Journal’s analysis:

During the legislative debate over the law, Democrats promised Obamacare would create jobs, lower health care costs, and allow people to keep their current plans if they chose to. Those vows, Republicans argue, are already being broken.

The Congressional Budget Office, the Hill’s nonpartisan scorekeeper, estimated that the health care law would reduce employment by about 800,000 workers and result in about 7 million people losing their employer-sponsored health care over a decade. The CBO also estimated that Obamacare during that period would raise health care spending by roughly $580 billion.

However, those reasons have been known for years, even if not widely reported.  Worse yet, the window for repealing ObamaCare has been shifted at least four years into the future.  And as I conclude in my column for The Fiscal Times today, that may be too late:

So what do we do about this train wreck?  Can it be stopped before the inevitable crash?  At least for now, the answer is no. Investors Business Daily’s editors claimed last week that “repeal is still a viable option,” suggesting that the near-weekly doses of bad fiscal news from the PPACA would force Democrats into admitting that the system would be a disaster.  At about the same time, the Senate proved IBD wrong by voting down abudget amendment offered by Ted Cruz (R-TX) to repeal the law, on a party-line 45-54 vote.  Even if the budget amendment had passed, it would almost certainly have prompted a rare veto from President Obama, as would any attempt to defund PPACA even if the Democrat-controlled Senate somehow decided to pass such a budget.

Therein lies the problem.  Voters had the opportunity to repeal ObamaCare by essentially repealing Barack Obama himself in the 2012 election.  Instead, voters gave Obama another four years, essentially guaranteeing that ObamaCare will take effect.  Once that begins in 2014, it becomes much more difficult to roll back.  Insurers will no longer be able to offer catastrophic coverage, and employers will find that it’s either easier to pay the fines for refusing to provide comprehensive coverage – or stop providing full-time employment.

Small wonder, then, that stock prices for agencies like Manpower and Kelly have “soared,” as corporations start rethinking the cost of in-house employment with the ObamaCare overhead costs in play.  As the Washington Post points out in its article, the use of part-timers will let employers off the hook, but will force taxpayers to provide even more in subsidies than projected for those workers to buy insurance through the exchanges, which will make Obamacare’s deficits soar further still.

Even if Republicans take the White House and both chambers of Congress in 2016, it may be far too late to undo the damage.  Both the insurance markets and employment paradigms will have entirely shifted, and a repeal would not return us to status quo ante.  The disaster that follows will be President Obama’s legacy, but our continuing headache as well.


In other words, even if Republicans retake the Senate and hold the House next year, Barack Obama will still be President.  Reconciliation won’t matter, because Obama will never sign a bill that repeals ObamaCare. I’d like to be optimistic, but in this case I’m more realistic.  The last, best chance to unwind ObamaCare before it did permanent damage to the economy and wiped out better options for market-based health insurance reform was the election in November.

Update: Fixed an incomplete sentence above.

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Jazz Shaw 10:01 AM on December 02, 2023