Saturday, September 21, 2013

Why Shutting Down the Government Might Actually Help Obamacare...

Ezra Klein and his Wonkblog staff had a great write-up in yesterday's edition on how the GOP, in an effort to kill Obamacare, might actually wind up strengthening it should they wind up shutting down the Federal government.

Consider this: (From Wonkblog, 9/20/13)

There's a cold logic behind the willingness of some conservatives to risk everything to stop Obamacare. But it's not that Obamacare will fail. After all, if the law will just be a debacle, Republicans should let it take effect, ride the catastrophe to overwhelming victory in the 2014 midterms, and then use their massive congressional majorities to repeal it.
Rather, as EJ Dionne writes, the real fear is that the law will succeed. Once Obamacare begins delivering health insurance to millions of Americans it will become effectively impossible to repeal. That's what's happened in every other country that's introduced a national health-care system. That's why the right needs to stop Obamacare before it begins.
The irony of their strategy, though, is that shutting down the federal government won't stop Obamacare. It might even help it.
The Congressional Research Service put it bluntly -- well, bluntly given the cautious, careful language favored by the CRS -- in a July report. "It appears that substantial ACA implementation might continue during a lapse in annual appropriations," they wrote.
There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, the lapse in appropriations only hits so-called "discretionary" funding. But the ACA's core functions are on the "mandatory" side of the budget. So, for instance, the money for tax credits and Medicaid expansion would arrive on schedule. State and federal exchanges would still operate. The individual mandate would still be in place.
So a lot of the law's funding would be unaffected. Meanwhile, the more marginal spending that is affected could be backfilled by the Obama administration moving mandatory money around, and even going beyond that, the White House could argue that crucial positions fall into the bucket of essential personnel who are protected during a government shutdown. So while it wouldn't be ideal, implementation would move forward.
But it gets worse for Republicans from there.
Obamacare's first year will be full of glitches and hiccups and mistakes and misfires. That's true for every big, complicated law (remember when Boehner called Medicare Part D's implementation "horrendous"?). The expectation is that Republicans will be able to take advantage of those problems. But if the early implementation comes in the context of an extended government shutdown, Republicans might well get blamed for implementation glitches as the media and voters ask whether the law wouldn't work more smoothly if the GOP hadn't turned out the lights.
Moreover, if Republicans get blamed for an annoying and unpopular government shutdown -- not to mention for some of Obamacare's problems -- that might blunt the gains they're likely to make in the 2014 midterms. More Democrats in Congress means more protection for Obamacare going forward.
So a government shutdown won't stop Obamacare from being implemented, but it might mean Republicans get blamed for some of the problems of implementation, and lose the ability to benefit politically from the inevitable hitches in the rollout.
The conservatives who won't yield against Obamacare might ultimately prove to be the law's best friends.

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