More on the GOP Dilemma on Obamacare Subsidies

No preview of the likely political events of 2015 is complete without some discussion of what could happen if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare subsidies in the 36 states that did not create their own health insurance purchasing exchanges. In theory, it’s a very easy fix at either the federal or state levels. But politically, Republicans would have to weigh the severe damage suffered by millions of people—many of them GOP voters–who are suddenly facing big premium increases against the excitement of conservative activists (especially the large number who are themselves all warm and cuddly with their Medicare benefits) who will cheer any blow to the Great White Whale of the Affordable Care Act.

Today Greg Sargent quotes from an upcoming book by conservative Philip Klein to illustrate that a real intraparty collision is possible. And the GOP pol already talking about biting the bullet and letting some people suffer to make an ideological point is none other than Bobby Jindal, engaged in a permanent campaign to outflank nearly everyone his party on the right:

“I don’t think conservative health care reform is about, we’re going to compete with [the left] in terms of how many people we see have an [insurance] care,” he said. “That not the ultimate goal.”

He later elaborated, “If we start with the premise that we’ve gotta give every single person a card, and that’s the only way we can be successful, we’re done. We’ve adopted their metric of success…if the metric of success is gonna be which plan can say ‘we’ve given people more cards,’ they always win. Because they will always spend more, they will always disrupt more.”…

He also put it this way: “I do think it’s a mistake if we argue we can’t take back what Obama has already given.”

Now keep in mind that the Supremes will likely act in late June, near the end of their current term. That will be around the time the GOP presidential nominating contest gets serious, with all or nearly all the candidates having opted in or out, and with many already organizing for that great conservative circus, the Ames Straw Poll (given a new lease on life just this weekend by the Iowa Republican Party), which will be held in August. So the candidates will be watching each other closely to see who if anyone is willing to act responsibly on the subsidy issue. More than likely the tide will be running the other way, with people like Bobby and Ted Cruz leading the way.

I’ve said this before, but Republicans really owe it to themselves to talk this over right now and begin an educational process aimed at convincing “the base” that it’s politically suicidal to let Obamacare subsidies die, particularly if “the base” is snake-dancing through the streets in celebration of their fellow-citizens’ misfortune. They might want to start with Bobby Jindal, whose tongue is lolling out at the prospect of any issue he can use as a wedge to convince caucus and primary voters he’s the most savage ideologue of them all.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.