Is There Any Real GOP Interest in Obamacare “Fix?”

So as a follow-on to the last post, let’s take another look at what Republicans are saying they’ll do if SCOTUS chooses to strike down Obamacare insurance purchasing subsidies in 34 or so states.

In Congress, it basically comes down to two options, as discussed in a Politico article by Haberkorn and Bade this morning: (1) a refusal to do anything unless it is a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act followed by some “replacement” plan (new ones are popping up weekly) that moves health care policy in an entirely different direction; or (2) a “fix” that temporarily extends Obamacare subsidies in all states in exchange for concessions that amount to an abandonment of the central principles of ACA (no individual or employer mandates; no mandated coverage).

Once you understand that (2) represents a cocktail of poison pills the president would instantly veto, then the GOP “choice” becomes largely cosmetic. Still, there’s enough fear among House Republicans that “the base” might think they’re trying to save Obamacare that even a phony gesture in that direction has little support in that chamber.

Given the lack of support in the House and the certainty of a presidential veto, it’s not clear how long Senate Republicans will maintain the charade of promoting a “fix.” The big question is whether that option remains theoretically alive long enough to serve as a theoretical alternative to an actual “fix” we can expect congressional Democrats to offer–you know, a one-page bill that basically confirms what Congress intended all along.

At that point we can expect to know a lot more than we do right now about public reaction to a SCOTUS decision for the plaintiffs. If it appears Democrats will get the bulk of blame for whatever happens, the thin incentive a small number of Republicans might have for supporting a real “fix” might well dissipate. If unhappiness with the situation becomes focused on restoring the status quo ante (ante the SCOTUS decision, not Obamacare), then you really might have some serious internal dissension in the GOP, especially if state-level Republicans are demanding relief. (There’s also the possibility, as noted here on Friday, that affected states could find ways to tap into established state exchanges and avoid the large-scale loss of subsidies).

All in all, though, there’s likely to be more noise than light from our Republican friends if things go south at SCOTUS.

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.