One for Sarah Kliff for some very nice Affordable Care Act reporting. She went to a McDonald’s, where calories per item are now listed, and asked what people thought about it. Key bit:

I did find one customer who had noticed the calorie labels: Dick Nigon of Sterling, Va. He and his wife, Lea, had stopped by McDonald’s after seeing an exhibit at the Renwick Gallery. Dick had ordered for the couple, noticed the calorie labels and liked them.

“I like that you have the information before you order,” he told me, when I asked about the labels. “It’s better than some kind of government health mandate in Obamacare.”

I told him that the calorie labels were, in fact, a government health mandate in Obamacare.

“Well that changes things a bit,” he responded. “I thought this was more of a voluntary sort of thing. Now I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.”

Which is a reminder of how difficult it is for anyone to talk about “Obamacare” as a particular thing because the ACA just contains so many different, and in many cases largely unrelated, pieces. It’s also a reminder that one of the outdated bits of “I’m Just a Bill” is the idea that a “bill” is one specific idea written by one Member of Congress in response to one problem. Most things nowadays that pass Congress do so as part of larger, omnibus bills which contain many different bills, many of which began life as individual measures. Most of these bills/provisions (or whatever we should call them) never receive separate votes on the House or Senate floor, or even in committee. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but good or bad it’s just how Congress does business.

Of course, this also makes the Tea Party demand that Republicans pledge to repeal — and hate — every single bit of the ACA into a terrible trap for Republican politicians, because even if one opposes the core reforms there are still plenty of consensus, wildly popular provisions. I mean, outside of the problem that many of the popular provisions are linked to unpopular pay-fors or enforcement mechanisms, which can at least be played both ways, and which Democrats are as apt to demagogue (by only mentioning the benefits) as Republicans are (by only mentioning the costs). 

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.