Just when you thought the week couldn’t get any worse for believers in limited government, Sen. John Cornyn, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is trying to pull the rug out from under the repeal Obamacare movement before it even gains traction.
He tells the Huffington Post:
“There is non-controversial stuff here like the preexisting conditions exclusion and those sorts of things,” the Texas Republican said. “Now we are not interested in repealing that. And that is frankly a distraction.”
What the GOP will work to repeal, Cornyn explained, are provisions that result in “tax increases on middle class families,” language that forced “an increase in the premium costs for people who have insurance now” and the “cuts to Medicare” included in the legislation.
Given the cowardice and intellectual incoherence of these remarks, its hard to know where to start. Cornyn doesn’t want to touch the part of the law that forces insurers to cover those with preexisting conditions, but ultimately you can’t isolate that one policy because one thing leads to another. If you force coverage of preexisting conditions, it raises premiums for the healthy, and the only way to keep them in the market is to force them to purchase insurance. But you can’t force people to buy insurance if they don’t have the money, and so you get government subsidies, which then leads to a government-run exchange, and so on. Ironically, Cornyn wants to remove the parts of the legislation that would increase premiums, but preexisting condition mandates (or “guaranteed issue”) would do more to raise premiums than any other single aspect of the legislation. At the same time, he wants to eliminate the Medicare cuts. So Republicans are going to run on being the party of smaller government on one hand, while promising to restore hundreds of billions of dollars of spending on a program that is bankrupting our country. Is there any better way to demoralize the base of the party, and sap the energy of those voters who are fed up with big government, then for the man responsible with running GOP Senate campaigns to wave the white flag ahead of time?
To be clear, I’m under no illusions as to how difficult it will be to unravel Obamacare. But in making these comments, Cornyn demonstrates why we’re in this shape in the first place. When Democrats are in power, they use that power to expand the role of government. Republicans respond by surrendering to the inevitability of big government.
UPDATE: The NRSC says that the Huffington Post misrepresented Cornyn’s position, and offers the following statement from Cornyn in response:
“Some media outlets have misrepresented my position on repealing and replacing the President’s $2.6 trillion health care bill. Make no mistake about it: I fully support repealing this Washington takeover of health care and replacing it with a bipartisan bill that lowers the cost of health care.
“Republicans have long pointed out that there are areas of health care reform where there is bipartisan agreement. Yet, instead of working with Republicans to solve issues of bipartisan concern such as pre-existing condition exclusions, Democrats insisted on a purely partisan bill that included massive tax hikes, trillions of dollars in new taxpayer spending, and cuts to Medicare, while failing to address rising health care costs.
“We will do what Democrats failed to do; start with common-sense measures and craft a truly bipartisan bill that does not raise taxes, does not pillage $500 billion from a bankrupt Medicare program and does not increase premiums on working families.”
Not clear what this would mean in practice. He still emphasizes the Medicare cuts and the preexisting conditions, for instance.