With Obamacare rapidly turning into the debacle that Republicans always warned it would be, it is entertaining to watch Democrats furiously trying to spin reality away. This piece by Todd Purdum in Politico is a classic of the genre: “The Obamacare sabotage campaign.” It’s all the Republicans’ fault, don’t you know:
To the undisputed reasons for Obamacare’s rocky rollout — a balky website, muddied White House messaging and sudden sticker shock for individuals forced to buy more expensive health insurance — add a less acknowledged cause: calculated sabotage by Republicans at every step.
That may sound like a left-wing conspiracy theory — and the Obama administration itself is so busy defending the indefensible early failings of its signature program that it has barely tried to make this case. But there is a strong factual basis for such a charge.
How so? Purdum complains that Republicans appealed the constitutionality of Obamacare to the Supreme Court (where, of course, it survived), and Republican states declined to exercise their option to set up state exchanges. That’s a pathetically weak indictment, but Purdum’s real grievance is the Republicans’ bad attitude: they “with[held] any support for the new law,” waged a “war to stop Obamacare,” and “sent…burdensome queries to local hospitals and nonprofits.” Talk about sabotage!
All of that is just humorous, but this is deeply contemptible:
The GOP faithful then kept up their crusade past the president’s reelection, in a pattern of “massive resistance” not seen since the Southern states’ defiance of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.
Because Obamacare is settled law! Like, say, the Bush tax cuts.
Of all Purdum’s complaints, this may be the silliest:
[J]ust last week, Rush Limbaugh advised his listeners that they could avoid penalties for failing to buy mandated insurance by arranging to avoid federal income tax refunds, since the IRS can only levy fines by withholding refunds, not by liens or criminal sanctions.
Rush got the idea, I believe, from us. But how dumb is Purdum’s whine? According to him, Republicans have a duty to help publicize some aspects of Obamacare–he complains that “some [Republican] states refused to do anything at all to educate the public about the law”–but they also have a duty to keep some portions of the act secret, like the fact that there isn’t actually any need to pay the mandated tax.
Purdum concludes by complaining that those pesky Republicans still haven’t given up:
The conservative battle against the Affordable Care Act continues on multiple fronts…
Obama himself has occasionally expressed frustration at the GOP’s implacable resistance to even the smallest gestures of cooperation on the law.
“In a normal political environment, it would have been easier for me to simply call up the speaker and say, ‘You know what, this is a tweak that doesn’t go to the essence of the law.’ It has to do with, for example, are we able to simplify the attestation of employers as to whether they’re already providing health insurance or not. ‘It looks like there may be some better ways to do this. Let’s make a technical change to the law.’
“That would be the normal thing that I would prefer to do,” the president said. “But we’re not in a normal atmosphere around here when it comes to Obamacare.”
Well, no: that is partly because of the manner in which Obamacare was enacted. Democrats drafted the bill in secret, conspicuously refusing any input by Republicans. They jammed it through Congress by suspending normal procedural rules during a brief moment when they controlled the House and had 60 votes in the Senate, without a single Republican vote in either chamber. Beyond that, the law is a disaster on the merits and is deeply unpopular with the American people. So it is a little much to expect Republicans to support the measure as a matter of “constituent service.”
For months, the White House has hoped that every politician’s instinct to render effective constituent service would trump political resistance to the law among Republicans.
Can the Democrats sell the idea that Obamacare’s failure is the Republicans’ fault? No. I doubt that even the press will lend them much support on this one. Barack Obama’s party owns Obamacare lock, stock and barrel, and no one will believe that the problem with the law is that Republicans have consistently opposed it.