NRSC’s Cornyn Preemptively Surrenders on “Obamacare” Repeal

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.

Constitutional Law from Prof. Conyers

Rep. John Conyers tells CNS News that he’s confident that the health care bill is Constitutional because of the “good and welfare” clause. If you’re having trouble remembering anything about that part of the Constitution, that would be because it doesn’t exist. But Conyers has to be right, he tells us, he’s the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee!

The Health Care Debate Has Just Begun

I have a column up at Kaiser Health News about why the passage of Obamacare marks the beginning of the health care debate.

An excerpt:

And speaking of abortion, it’s fitting that in the final hours, the outcome of the vote hinged on the issue. While many saw abortion as tangentially related to the health care debate, in reality the dispute is central to it, and a harbinger of things to come.

The expansion of government’s role in health care will elevate the importance of social issues and trigger contentious battles in the future over the government’s role in personal decisions. Given that abortion is a legal procedure in a free market, government cannot restrict private policies from covering it. But once ostensibly private policies are regulated by the federal government and subsidized with tax dollars, Washington has a say in the matter.

The Fight Will Go On

Whatever it might mean for Democrats in November, last night represented one of the biggest victories in the history of American liberalism.

During his campaign, President Obama made clear that he wanted to be a transformative liberal leader who “changed the trajectory of America.” Once he signs the comprehensive health care bill into law this week, Obama will deliver on that promise, and complete the third major wave of entitlement expansion in America.

Now it’s up to conservatives to make sure that the victory is short-lived. 

Let’s be under no illusions. There’s a reason why the battle over this health care bill dragged on for so long and was so bitterly fought. Once a law is enacted that delivers benefits to a given constituency, it becomes very hard to overturn. Not even the conservative icon Ronald Reagan, for instance, was willing to lay a finger on the big box entitlement programs of Medicare and Social Security.

But with that said, there are a number of things unique to Obamacare that make it vulnerable.

While Social Security and Medicare passed Congress with large majorities in both chambers, Obamacare passed without a single Republican vote — and with 34 defections among House Democrats. The process was tainted by legislative maneuvers and back room deals, and rammed through in the face of overwhelming public opposition.

Furthermore, because Democrats had to make the legislation appear cheaper over the Congressional Budget Office’s ten-year budget window, they delayed the bulk of the benefits until 2014, while many of the unpopular aspects of the legislation, such as the huge tax increases, kick in almost immediately.

In the immediate term, no matter what the odds of success, every legal avenue must be exhausted to challenge any and all provisions that have a chance of being overturned in the courts. At the same time, conservatives must be pushing Republican candidates to pledge to work not just to repeal certain aspects of the bill, but, to borrow a line from Jaws, to go after the head, the tail, the whole damn thing. (Sen. Jim DeMint has already announced that this week he would offer a bill to do just that.)

If efforts to repeal or overturn Obamacare fail, then the battle will have to enter the next stage. At some point after it is implemented — whether this is five years or 10 years from now, there will be another major health care debate. Despite President Obama’s promises, premiums will still be skyrocketing and the spiraling cost of health care will be putting a strain on individuals, businesses and the federal government.

When that day comes, liberals will argue that the reason why all of those problems exist is that Obamacare 1.0 didn’t go far enough. They’ll say that the government needs to spend more money on subsidies, place more regulations on insurance companies, and introduce a public option to drive down costs — or maybe even go the single-payer route altogether. Conservatives cannot be in a position to lose that argument.

If Obamacare is fully enacted, then conservatives should make sure that Democrats are held accountable for the problems with the health care system. The rising premiums should be blamed on the burdensome regulations that force individuals to purchase the amount of insurance that the federal government dictates they must have, rather than the type that they freely choose. The out of control health care spending should be blamed on the reality that when the government is picking up the tab for something, people tend to spend more. The crushing deficits we’ll be facing should be blamed on the accounting tricks Democrats used to hide the true cost of their proposals.

When Americans have to undergo long wait times in doctors offices, when individuals have to file their tax returns each year and present proof of government-approved insurance or pay more taxes, when the private sector has to digest a raft of new taxes and mandates, they’ll be more open to hearing conservative alternatives. Keep in mind that this will all be happening within the broader context of the entitlement crisis, with Social Security and Medicare running deficits, and further reinforcing the unaffordable cost of massive government.

In the meantime, conservatives should continue to make the affirmative case that the only way to truly bring down costs and improve quality of care is to have a system that is built around individual consumers making their own choices about how to spend their own money, not one in which health care dollars are controlled by employers and the government.

Obamacare, no doubt, puts America on the road to government-run health care. But as long as there’s still a prospect of changing course, conservatives should never stop fighting.

Mad About Obamacare? Blame Bush

They did it.

Despite an overwhelming public backlash and the likely political ramifications, Democrats cut deals and twisted arms and got the votes they needed, winning by a 219 to 212 margin. While the reconciliation process still remains, it’s a sideshow at this point. The United States is a presidential signature away from having national health care.

Suffice it to say, as somebody who has spent the past year working to expose the devastating consequences of this legislation and who values individual liberty, this is a sad day. And I’m working on a longer piece right now for tomorrow’s site about the ongoing fight against its provisions, which just got a lot harder. But as upset as I am, I can’t pin the blame entirely on Democrats.

The reason is that by passing this bill, liberal Democrats were just doing what liberal Democrats do — raising taxes and expanding the role of government in our lives. Liberals have been working for decades to impose national health care on America. It’s been their Holy Grail. It should have been apparent to everybody that once they took over Congress and the presidency that it would be their top domestic priority. All of the leading Democratic presidential candidates proposed health care plans roughly along the lines of what passed today.

The question conservatives should be asking though, is how did we get in this position in the first place? How come, over the course of two elections, Democrats were able to take back the White House and amass substantial majorities in both chambers of Congress, allowing them to enact this sweeping legislation with no Republican votes — and huge defections in their own party? How could a generally right-of-center nation be taken over by liberals from Chicago and San Francisco?

The answer, of course, is that none of this would have been possible without George W. Bush — or more broadly speaking, Bush era Republicanism. While they were in power, Republicans squandered an opportunity to push free market health care solutions. When they did use their power to pass major legislation, it was for policies like the big government Medicare prescription drug plan, which was (until today) the largest expansion of entitlements since the Great Society. They took earmarks and doled out farm and energy subsidies. They earned a reputation for fiscal recklessness and corruption and incompetent governance. President Obama ultimately forced through the health care bill in spite of the political consequences to his party because he’s ultimately a true believing liberal. But it was only because of the failures of Bush-era Republicanism that an ideological liberal with little experience was able to capture the presidency on the abstract notion of change.

Today will be largely remembered as the biggest legislative victory for liberals since Medicare in 1965. But it should also be remembered as the day that Bush cemented his legacy as one of the most destructive presidents for advocates of limited government.

Obamacare Passes

A sad day for freedom in America. The Senate health care bill just passed the House by a 219 to 212 vote, with 34 Democrats voting “no.” Given the closeness of the vote, it means that the decision of Rep. Bart Stupak to cave on abortion put Democrats over the top.

Republicans are right now offering a “motion to recommit,” or send the reconciliation bill back to committee, with instructions to add the Stupak language. The idea is to force Democrats who already voted for the Stupak language in November into a tough vote.

UPDATE: The Republican motion to recommit has failed, 232 to 199.

UPDATE II: The reconciliation bill has passed, 220 to 211. That goes onto the Senate, but the Senate bill goes to Obama for his signature. So we get Obamacare either way.

Re: Thus Caveth Stupak

Reading over the executive order myself, I’m not seeing what it does other than to affirm the administration’s position that the Senate language is sufficient and that it will implement the legislation in accordance with current law. After months of haggling over the abortion language, who knew resolving the issue would be as easy as getting President Obama to sign a piece of paper essentially saying, “I promise”?