Is an Obamacare Subsidy Fix Compromise Possible?

Since this whole subject is either going to be moot by this time tomorrow (which would be fabulous) or will be with us for many months and probably years to come, it’s an appropriate time to note that Republicans aren’t the only ones who have to game-plan the situation if King v. Burrell‘s plaintiffs win. As Greg Sargent notes today, Democrats have crafted a one-page “this time we mean it” bill to restore the intended design of the Affordable Care Act.

No Republicans will vote for that, and they of course will either refuse to vote for any Obamacare “fix” or will vote for one with debilitating, veto-bait conditions, as I noted this morning.

But even as the blame game plays out, is there a chance the White House will quietly let it be known there is potentially a “deal” that extends the subsidies with conditions that do not go to the core of the Affordable Care Act’s structure? If so, as noted at Lunch Buffet, Ramesh Ponnuru is reasonably sure there is a significant bloc of congressional Republicans who might go for it, depending on how much face saving is involved. Then the question must be asked: would Democrats beyond the White House go for it, too?

I’m still very skeptical about the prospects for a deal that could command majorities in the House and Senate and also avoid a presidential veto. Yes, if the subsidies go down and mass protests erupt in the affected red states, and all the Kabuki maneuvering ends without progress, pressure will mount on both parties to cut a deal. The trouble is Democrats are going to fight any “compromise” that actually screws up the existing Obamacare exchanges, while Republicans have zero incentive to make the exchanges actually work. So if this happens it would have to be a full-court shot at the buzzer, in terms both of precision and of timing. And that’s never a good bet.

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.