03.20.2015 1

Obamacare solutions ahead

By Rick Manning

No ObamacareIn the months ahead, there will be an ongoing debate in D.C. amongst Republican strategists about what to do about Obamacare.

This debate will be driven by two known upcoming events, one is completely controlled by the Republican majorities in both Houses, and the other is going to be dependent upon what the Supreme Court decides in June in the King v. Burwell case.

The first opportunity is something known as budget reconciliation, a process for bringing the House and Senate budgets together with only a simple majority vote needed for passage in the Senate.  No filibuster or sixty votes required for cloture, just a simple fifty one votes needed.

This budget reconciliation bill can contain spending oriented amendments to current law, but Congress only gets one bite at this apple.

This is significant because D.C. legislative and political pundits are actively debating how to use this once-a-year opportunity to move spending legislation to the President’s desk without asking Harry Reid’s permission.

The initial promise was that a repeal of as much of Obamacare as is allowed under the budget reconciliation rules along with replacement language could be included. This would force Senate Democrats to vote to retain the law, and President Obama to veto it with the ultimate result being that nothing changed.

Subsequently, some are suggesting that a tax reform measure be put into the budget reconciliation. However, the challenge of a Presidential veto remains the same, and it is extremely unlikely that Obama will sign a tax reform bill that couldn’t garner six Democrat votes in the Senate, and a veto would make the effort moot.

This is where King v. Burwell comes into the discussion. Should the Court decide against the Administration, millions of people who signed up for Obamacare under the false promise that they are entitled to a subsidy will end up paying full freight for health plans they chose based upon an IRS lie.

The heart of the court case revolves around the IRS’ decision to ignore the plain letter of the law and extend subsidies to people who live in states that chose not to set up state health care exchanges.  When written, the threat of denying people subsidies was used as a cudgel against governors who were deciding whether to set up a state exchange or not.  Depending upon how the idea of establishing a state exchange is interpreted, millions of people in as many as thirty seven states may have been lied to by the Obama Administration about their eligibility for subsidies.

This lie was not the fault of those who made the mistake of believing the radical transformationists in the Obama Administration, yet they are the ones who would be expected to pay for it.

Many ideas are bouncing around the halls of Congress on how to deal with this situation should it arise.  There is even some talk of using the budget reconciliation process to deal with the aftermath of King v. Burwell.

That is not how I would proceed.

If I had the mythical pen and the phone, I would put simple-and-easy-to-understand legislation on the floor of the House and Senate.  It would have two parts that are inextricably linked.

Part one would keep faith with those promised subsidies through the end of the year.  It is a promise made and it is a promise that should be kept, and those health care recipients can choose another less expensive option in 2016 without the promise of government assistance for payments.

Part two would eliminate the individual mandate that forces people to purchase health insurance under the threat of a fine.  This change would be made retroactively to include all people swept up in the 2015 enforcement of the law.

But they would have to be tied together.

The goal would be to force Senate Democrats who will be hearing from their constituents, particularly young voters who are disproportionately impacted by both the subsidy and the individual mandate, to either vote for this solution or vote against the interests of their base vote.

Similarly President Obama would be forced to decide between ripping down one of the pillars of his namesake law in exchange for keeping his promise of subsidies.

Rather than putting something complicated and hard to explain on the floor of the House and Senate and hopefully on the President’s desk, this idea has the advantage of being easy to understand.

As far as the budget reconciliation, I would put Obamacare repeal on the President’s desk for him to veto after attacking the individual mandate centerpiece of the legislation for days of debate.  Then when King v. Burwell comes down for the plaintiffs, the ground will have been laid for the solution outlined above.

If President Obama balks and doesn’t sign the individual mandate repeal and increased subsidy bill, then he will have to answer to the very voters who put him in office as his subsidy promise lie becomes a reality for them.

Over the months ahead, there will be extensive discussion by very smart people about what to do with these two separate but entwined events.  This time, let’s hope they keep it simple and give themselves a chance for success.

Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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