Unexploded Ordinance

TNR’s Brian Beutler does a fine job today of laying out all the spoken and unspoken contingency plans of various interests in both parties as they anticipate SCOTUS’ disposition of King v. Burwell. He admirably avoids predictions in the face of the many complications and uncertainties. But what I appreciate most is that Beutler shares my concern with the timing of the decision in terms of its impact on an already wild and fractious 2016 Republican presidential nominating contest. And a lot of people aren’t really getting that:

[I]ndividually and combined, they hint at a premise that the aftermath of an adverse King ruling will exclusively affect, and be driven by, existing stakeholders. They neglect that the case itself, which will be decided in late June, is an unexploded ordnance lying in the middle of the 2016 presidential campaign field.

Yessir. In June the “winnowing” phase of the 2016 cycle will be underway, with close scrutiny of fundraising numbers and polls beginning, and the first real GOP contest–the Ames Straw Poll–right on the horizon. It will be time for the vast number of proto-candidates not only to fish or cut bait–most will have probably done that just a bit earlier–but make a move. Is there any chance one or perhaps multiple candidates–hell, Bobby Jindal’s already pretty much there–will not bellow “treason!” at any attempt to “fix” Obamacare with anything other than a full repeal followed by a “replacement” that doesn’t resemble the ACA at all? This will happen, and will spook the other candidates.

I would also note that a relatively low 69,000 Iowans are estimated to be at risk of losing purchasing subsidies if SCOTUS goes the wrong way on King v. Burwell. I don’t know how many of them are likely GOP caucus-goers, but probably not enough of them to remove the temptation for candidates to go crazy in opposition to a “fix.”

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.