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More trouble for the repeal effort

"There is non-controversial stuff here like the preexisting conditions exclusion and those sorts of things," Sen. John Cornyn said. "We are not interested in repealing that. And that is frankly a distraction." As Ramesh Ponnuru points out, that's basically game over for the repeal effort:

Understandably, Cornyn doesn’t want to touch the most popular element of Obamacare, the ban on discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. But unless it’s modified substantially, the individual mandate has to stay too — and therefore so do the subsidies and the minimum-benefits regs. Without perhaps realizing it, Cornyn has come out for tinkering at the edges of Obamacare.

Ponnuru is too kind, I think. Cornyn and his colleagues repeatedly said that they wanted to ban discrimination on preexisting conditions during the debate and that their argument was with all the other stuff. But all the other stuff, Ponnuru says, flows from the ban on preexisting conditions. If you're going to change the insurance market such that the sick can't be left out, you have to make sure that the risk pool doesn't become so sick and expensive that the healthy flee. That's why you do the mandate. And if there's a mandate, there needs to be subsidies to make sure people can afford what they're being asked to buy. And then of course, we need to define what they're being asked to buy, and so you get minimum benefit regulations.

If you're going to change the insurance market, in other words, you need to change the insurance market. And as Cornyn basically admits, people want the insurance market changed. If Republicans aren't willing to fight that directly, there aren't that many options for modifying it slightly. As Jon Chait says, the only way it can work is as politics. "You run on a promise to keep the popular elements and eliminate the unpopular ones.... Then, if you win, you forget about it."

By Ezra Klein  |  March 24, 2010; 9:33 AM ET
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Next: Vote-a-rama cometh


maybe Coburn or one of those other GOP doctors can start talking about "targeted repeal crafted with surgical precision"

Posted by: bdballard | March 24, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Republicans repealing the mandate and antagonizing the insurance industry?

You betchya, it won't happen!

Posted by: ns3k | March 24, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Unless their goal is to eliminate health insurance and force all health care purchases into their promise land "free market." In that case, eliminating the mandate is the perfect solution: it kills health insurance by forcing it into a death spiral.

Posted by: danwhalen2 | March 24, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

agreed Ezra.

What Republicans should do is speak solely to cost of healthcare. What this will do to premiums up to 2014 and after the exchange opens and the fact that many don't believe the CBO numbers will hold up. Follow that like a hawk. A deficit hawk. And then if it does, you've done your job.

Didn't Republicans ask for a CMS report after the final bill was passed? I wonder where that went to?

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 24, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Talk of repeal was premature. And as many conservative pundits have pointed out--including firebrands like Rush Limbaugh--once HCR becomes law, it's probably going to stay law. After all, what government entitlement has ever been repealed?

It's why the battle up to this point was so pitched. But, the Republicans lost, and the smart thing to do is drop HCR as a topic, except in speeches to their tea party supporters. It's time for a new enemy, like immigration reform or cap and trade. Compile a few horror stories that can ostensibly be blamed on HCR for use in the campaigns, and then use those anecdotes in the context of: "and do you want more of this?" rather than: "and we'll repeal it".

Although, I confess, listening to the punditocracy, I worry for my party of choice that they cannot seem to distinguish this much more moderate and conservative healthcare reform from the Soviet-style command-and-control *actual* take over of 1/6th of the economy in Hillarycare.

They should forget about HCR, now, and focus on preparing to battle with much more pernicious upcoming legislation, such as cap and trade or amnesty for illegals that may well be coming down the pipe.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 24, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

There is nothing these egomaniac, hypocritical, irresponsible, unAmerican republicans will try to pursue their personal gains, win at any cost tactics.
They are sacrificing the American people, our country and our survival.
They are truly on their way to becoming our country's most dangerous domestic terrorists.

Posted by: kathlenec | March 24, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

@kathlenec: "There is nothing these egomaniac, hypocritical, irresponsible, unAmerican republicans will try to pursue their personal gains, win at any cost tactics. They are sacrificing the American people, our country and our survival. They are truly on their way to becoming our country's most dangerous domestic terrorists."

Wow. And your side just won on a piece of significant legislation. Hate to see what kind of mood you'd have been in if your side had lost.

Domestic terrorist?s Sounds dangerous. Maybe we should start rounding up these potential domestic terrorists and putting them in camps or something? If they are that dangerous, they really shouldn't be allowed to remain free.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 24, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse


but as you'll see around here Dems will play up the talk of repeal forever for what they feel is political gain even if it never had a snowball's chance in he-- in happening.

And I disagree with you on topic. They need to focus on jobs and what Dems aren't doing to get America back to work.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 24, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

There you go again, Ezra, imagining that the GOP actually cares about policy. Campaigning on repeal and then not really doing anything is the best strategy for them, because a) then they'd need something else to rile up the base, and b) their contributors, most of whom will benefit from reform, will have extra money to send them.

Posted by: paul314 | March 24, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

@visionbrkr: "And I disagree with you on topic. They need to focus on jobs and what Dems aren't doing to get America back to work."

Fair enough, although there are plenty of jobs-related arguments in obstructing immigration reform and cap and trade, arguing (with some credibility) that both would cost jobs rather than create them, that they are the wrong focus for a company that needs to create jobs, that cap and trade will punish business and immigration reform will make it easier for people who were originally here illegally to take your job or drive down wages . . . it's why battling jobs legislation from Obama will be trickier for the Republicans, and they ought to hope for cap and trade or immigration reform next.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 24, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse



Personally i love FDL's person of choice to replace Blanche Lincoln from the left.

Maybe they should have vetted him a little better, huh?

Somehow I don't think outsourcing goes over well in Arkansas.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 24, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

The individual mandate will increase the price of health care. Why? If the mandate is not repelled, I will make health care more expensive. This is a clear violation of civil liberties, if the legal system fails, and I am forced to buy health insurance, I will make sure to use it! To the fullest extent. I will go and encourage others to do the same. (You don't think there are enough angry people out there to increase health care prices?) If you force me to be on the health care system, I will be, and I will make sure I am a BURDEN. You are not getting cheaper health care at the expense of my liberties. Website is not being constructed.

Posted by: Jadotch | March 24, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

ns3k: I share your take on it.

Money and influence always wins. I expect the heated talk of repeal will soon cool.

Posted by: onewing1 | March 24, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

If the GOP were smart, they would make a play for the immigration vote and offer an amendment to allow the 15 million or so unauthorized immigrants to buy health insurance on the exchanges. That would be a politically smart slap to the democrats, policy-wise it's also fiscally prudent rather than leaving them to access care at emergency rooms at great expense. Alas, the GOP is probably too racist for such a tactic.

Posted by: goadri | March 24, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

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