Republican Fail on Obamacare

I find Republican strategy in the recent Obamacare and budget fight to have been insanely aggravating, and that is coming from someone who hates Obamacare.

Yes, I understand why things are happening as they are.  From a re-election strategy, their approach makes total sense.  A lot of these House guys come from majority Republic districts where their biggest re-election fear comes from a primary challenge to the right of them.  I live in one of these districts, so I see what perhaps coastal media does not.  In everyday conversation Republicans are always criticizing their Congressmen for not rolling back Obamacare.  Republicans need to be able to say in a primary, "I voted to defund Obamacare".  Otherwise I guarantee every one of them will be facing a primary opponent who will hammer them every day.

But from the perspective of someone who just wants the worst aspects of this thing to go away, this was a terrible approach.  Defunding Obamacare entirely was never, ever, ever going to succeed.  Obama and Democrats would be happy to have a shutdown last months before they would roll back his one and only signature piece of legislation.  They may have caved in the past on other issues but he is not going to cave on this one (and needs to be seen not caving given his recent foreign policy mis-steps that has him perceived as weak even in his own party).  And, because all the focus is on Obamacare, we are going to end up with a budget deal that makes no further progress on containing other spending.

The Republicans should have taken the opportunity to seek targeted changes that would more likely have been accepted.  The most obvious one is to trade a continuing resolution for an elimination of the IPAB, one of the most undemocratic bits of legislation since the National Industrial Recovery Act.  Another strategy would have been to trade a CR for a 1-year delay in the individual mandate, a riskier strategy but one the Administration might leap at given that implementation problems in exchanges are giving them a black eye.  Finally, an even riskier strategy would have been to tie a CR to a legislative acknowledgement that the PPACA does not allow subsidies in Federally-run exchanges.  This latter might not have been achievable (and they might get it in the courts some day anyway) but if one argues that any of these is unrealistic, then certainly defunding Obamacare as a whole was unrealistic.

I think as a minimum they could have killed the IPAB, but now they will get nothing.

Update:  This line from All the President's Men seems relevant:

You've done worse than let Haldeman slip away: you've got people feeling sorry for him. I didn't think that was possible. In a conspiracy like this, you build from the outer edges and go step by step. If you shoot too high and miss, everybody feels more secure. You've put the investigation back months.


  1. oneteam:

    I think we should let the Dems do what they want regarding healthcare. Then when the actual reality of hits voters, the Dems will be ruined for at least a few election cycles and we can then go in and fix it all (which we should have done when we had the power to do it.)

  2. alanstorm:

    That has a certain appeal, except for one little item: the rest of us get to go along for the ride, and the crash at the ending would be bloody.

  3. HenryBowman419:

    The Senate Dems will get pass an amendment which will fully fund Obamacare. Then, all that really matters is what happens in the House-Senate conference. Here, the Republicans should be able to extract some real concessions. Examples might be requiring all Federal workers (including Congress and its staff) to be covered by Obamacare, and/or delaying its implementation for another year, something that might be palatable for the Dems. The Republican House leadership has thus far been completely spineless, though, so we'll see what happens: the Republicans' fundamental problem is that the party, generally speaking, has no principles whatsoever.

    I think you're wrong about B.O., though: he has no gonads whatsoever. But, with a sycophantic press, he has a major advantage.

  4. Nehemiah:

    I agree that the house republicans should be able to get some roll back on Obamacare in conference committee. They wouldn't have been able to do that without first taking the vote to defund Obamacare and sending that bill over to the Senate. Had they just laid down the best they could have done was keep the sequestration cuts in place.

  5. Nehemiah:

    The problem with doing that is the crash will not result in Obamacare going away, but rather it will morph into single payer with the guv'mint in charge. The press is already setting the early narrative, "It shouldn't surprise anyone that the administration is having difficulties in roll out given all the attacks and fear mongering from the republicans, particularly the tea party wing."

  6. J Calvert:

    This is exactly what I've been telling family and friends for weeks. I'm tired brinksmanship from both sides. If Obamacare is really the disastrous, job-killing monster everyone is claiming it is, then why not pass targeted, small bills that fix the most onerous problems? The republicans in the congress are telling the American people, and especially the "undecided" voters, that having an issue to beat up opponents with in elections is more important than fixing Obamacare.

    How about we attempt good governance for a change?

  7. Rick Caird:

    I disagree Coyote. The idea that ObamaCare can be piecemeal fixed is nonsense. The fact is that if you could kill the IPAB, then when you wanted to kill something like the Wedding tax, the left would say, "We already gave you the IPAB". That is enough.

    The result of this effort to defund anything that was not funded in the original bill is another chance to point out the Democrats own this monster lock stock and barrel. The effects of ObamaCare will get nastier and nastier ove the next couple of years and the next couple of election cycles.

  8. HenryBowman419:

    The sheer size and scope of "Obamacare" is both tremendous and horrible. It should be repealed outright, just as Prohibition was.

  9. Anna:

    I agree with this. People had a chance in November, 2012 to do something about it. They reelected Obama. I say let the people get what they voted for. As Ed Koch said, the people have voted, they must be punished.

  10. regularjoeski:

    Obama will not accept either a repeal, a delay in the mandate, or a budget fix. Sequester only went through because the Dems thought it would hurt the Republicans. Why not shut the government down to get either repeal of Obamacare with no increase in spending? Otherwise you have no way to repeal it without the Republicans controlling the House, having a filibuster proof Senate, and the WH. In other words never. If you can not sell a shut down when you are not cutting anyone's budget how will you ever cut the budget.

  11. mesaeconoguy:

    The jig was up last November. That was your chance to kill it.

    In that sense, what Cruz did today was completely symbolic, but it was nice to see some opposition, if only symbolic.

    IPAB is still at significant risk - the Goldwater lawsuit against it is very much alive (including some funding help from me), and that is how you will have to kill it: lawsuit barrage.

  12. oneteam:

    Agreed. However, I think it's likely that the pain of Obamacare implementation will sting at the right time and coincide with the election pendulum. Coupled with Obama's abysmal record of governing. Conservatives/libertarians will get back in power and be able to extract us from the jowls of single payer. At least, that is the hope. Otherwise, we're doomed and on the road to serfdom.

  13. mesocyclone:

    This republican doesn't understand Cruz' tactics, other than positioning himself within the party.

    The Republicans have very little power at this point (since 2010). About all they can get out of this is either putting Democrats in a position for vote for something unpopular (like removing a Republican added delay of the individual mandate), or maybe actually getting a little bit like that delay.

    I think we're seeing a lot of inside baseball going on.

  14. Benjamin Cole:

    I suppose all is fair in love, war and politics.

    And I think Obamacare is too complicated.

    That said, this GOP maneuvering strikes me as weasel- and skunk-like.

    Have a vote on Obamacare, and then get on with it. Vote on the Defense budget and then move on, That is legislation and democracy.

    If legislators think that every vote can then be re-contested later at following key moments, then every bill or funding is up for grabs all the time---in other words, legislative anarchy and inertia.

    Oh, it might by yucks now on Obamacare, but what if the Donks start doing this when it is their turn to be obstructionist?

    The Banana Republic of the Unites States, coming your way....

  15. John Say:

    Usually I agree with you but I think you are wrong about this.
    IPAB or other more practical targets are not concerns if ordinary people.
    PPACA is. A majority has opposed it since passing. That public opposition remains strong. Support even in congress is weakening.

    No, I do not think that the GOP can accomplish a full repeal or defund, but atleast they are fighting on ground that people understand.

    Further this is a fight that strengthens libertarian and Tea Party republicans at the expense of other GOP factions.

    Though I would like Republicans to gain something from the upcoming conflicts, the long term is more important than the short term.

    It is not important whether Republicans win the current political battles. Gaining greater control of congress in 2014 is not critical either.

    Increasing that growing minority within congress and the nation that grasp that government is the problem is.

  16. John Say:

    Every vote can be re-contested later.
    Congressional decision making is no different fromt hat of people or businesses. Ordinarily the best choice is to make decisions and stick to them. But it is also necessary to reconsider bad decisions.
    There is no hard and fast rule that works, for ourselves, our business or our country.

    I hope democrats engage in the same tactics. They too will have to decide which battles they wish to fight. Though I would prefer that it were easier to shrink government and harder to grow it, our government was deliberately designed to make it hard to excercise the power of government. That is a good thing.

  17. John Say:

    I am happy over the brinksmanship.

    At the very least congress is not passing new onerous laws.
    Even if republicans fail, for months congress and the president have been fighting to stay in the same place.

    While there are things we actually need - like killing IPAB, these are not going to happen right now. The best we can hope for is that congress is to busy fighting to make things any worse.

  18. marque2:

    Turns out we are now losing the sequester cuts as well. The House bill includes a 19 billion increase in the limit, and Harry Reid wants 70 billion increase. Of course all this negotiating away the sequester, has been hidden because we all became obsessed with Obamacare.

  19. marque2:

    Mostly because the Democrats would strip those and not pass them either. Obama is not very good about 50 50 negotiation ,and has kicked Boehner in the ass several times when Boehner tried to negotiate in good faith - pulling deals back at the last minute and such.

  20. marque2:

    I would agree with this but in addition to the Democrats being ruined I will be ruined as well. My salary has been going down over the last few years, and my expenses up, My healthcare has already gone up 50% over two years for a limited plan, and I expect it to go up even more next year. I pay full freight I don't have my company pay for 80% of it.

  21. J Calvert:

    Then what's the harm in passing small, targeted fixes for the most egregious problems? If they pass the Senate and Obama signs them, the Republicans can claim the mantle of problem solvers. If Reid prevents a vote or the President veto's bills, they have an easy to understand election issue.

    I know Obama is not a good faith negotiator, and what I'm suggesting is a solution to that problem. Don't give him anything to negotiate with, make him say no a hundred times to small, easy to understand bills.

  22. marque2:

    Won't happen. I don't think the GOP has the power to get anything through to the president. At best they can only stop bad things from being enacted. I am sure there are times when the GOP doesn't negotiate well, but this rubbing of hands and saying I don't like either of them, they just won't get along is malarky. the Democrats perceive they have a lot of power and are refusing to negotiate at all, and have shown this several times.

    Ted Cruz did a stunt - but I am glad he highlighted the issue. Now the GOP on the house side is going to try for a one year delay in the mandate - which Obama should enjoy, because things are not going so well now for getting everything set up. Chance of that happening 0%

    You gotta understand Obamacare is the only think Obama has for his legacy. What else has he done?