Republicans are in full control. They now control the House of Representatives and the Senate, and have promised their base to expect fast, sweeping changes to Obamacare when the new legislative session began in January. Much was said and many anticipated seeing a glimpse of the Republican healthcare plan, but so far, nothing. And from the looks of it, nothing will happen in the near future.
A piece written on Salon looked at this Republican quagmire and correctly called it a “massive deception” by congressional Republicans. The piece dug deep and uncovered the reason Republicans promised their version of the ‘Obamacare replacement,’ but failed to deliver. And according to Salon, the reason of course, is Politics.
Speaker John Boehner went on Fox News and promised that his party would agree on an Obamacare replacement plan and that it would come up for a vote before the year was out. “There will be an alternative,” he said, “and you’re going to get to see it.” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy also got in on the act, announcing the creation of “a new working group” consisting of Reps. Paul Ryan, Fred Upton, and John Kline that would “continue to build on patient-centered health care solutions with which to replace Obamacare.”
In keeping with the tired conventions of official Washington, these statements and actions were directed at the “hardworking taxpayers” who were at risk from “the fallout of Obamacare.” But the real intended audience was far smaller: the five conservative justices on the Supreme Court. The high court had, at that point, already agreed to hear arguments in King v. Burwell, the case that threatens to invalidate health insurance subsidies to the majority of states. Republicans obviously wanted the court to endorse the dodgy, bad-faith arguments brought by the plaintiffs, but they also had to consider the implications of a ruling against the ACA. If the subsidies were struck down, the insurance markets in those states would descend into chaos and put people’s lives at risk, and that might give the conservative justices pause.
So, they started sending every signal they could that the Republicans in Congress would be ready to cope with the pandemonium of a ruling against the ACA. McCarthy’s statement announcing the healthcare working group said that it would “develop a contingency plan… to enact in case the Supreme Court rules in King v. Burwell that Obamacare subsidies offered on the federal exchange are illegal.” The message was perfectly clear for those inclined to listen: don’t worry, pull the trigger, we got this.
The day before oral arguments in the case began in March, the three working group members published an op-ed laying out in determinedly vague terms the principles for their Obamacare “off-ramp” proposal. After the oral arguments, the working group released a statement saying “we will be ready to act” if the court rules for the plaintiffs. That was three months ago. The court’s ruling is expected to be released very soon. So where is the “contingency plan” majority leader McCarthy said would be forthcoming back in January?
Well, apparently he’s of a different mind now over whether it’s right and proper for the House working group to weigh in before the Supreme Court has actually released its ruling. According to the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. McCarthy told reporters Monday that Republicans would be prepared regardless of what the court decides, but that they would not unveil a proposal before a ruling.
“Don’t expect us to pre-determine the Supreme Court. We have to first see what their decision is and what we have to solve,” Mr. McCarthy said. Republicans still might release outlines of their response, but not a formal bill, an aide said.