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Posted at 9:18 AM ET, 02/10/2011

What Karl Rove gets right

By Ezra Klein

I don't agree with Karl Rove on much, but he's right that if the GOP takes control of the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2012, they can kill the Affordable Care Act even if they don't have 60 votes in the Senate. More than that, if the GOP takes control of the whole government in 2012, they should be able to kill the Affordable Care Act.

The point of a representative democracy where various political actors have staggered terms is that it gives them breathing room to make difficult decisions and time to explain those decisions to the public. But if that time elapses and the public isn't convinced, and in fact is so unconvinced that they deliver the opposition two huge victories in a row, then that's it. Game's up.

The Affordable Care Act is a good bill, in my opinion. But a bearded prophet didn't walk it down from the Temple Mount. Either the legislators who support the law need to win some elections or the people who the public keeps rewarding for opposing the law should get their chance to repeal or rework it.

By Ezra Klein  | February 10, 2011; 9:18 AM ET
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Greg Sargent set the local record when he managed to post about DADT 4 or 5 times every day for a month or two straight.

That's a pretty high bar, but I admire your attempt to challenge his record.

What's the state of ACA in Idaho. I don't think we've covered that yet.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 10, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Normally I'd agree, but not in this case. The bill was passed with 60 votes which meant it had to go through the meat grinder to get that 60th vote rather than the 51st vote. That means it's missing things that would have been popular (Medicare buy-in), more cost effective (public option) and would have built a constituency sooner rather than waiting for 2014. You don't get to hold bill hostage and make it crappy by demanding 60 votes then complain about how crappy it is and therefore say it should be repealed with 51 votes. (I say "don't get to" in a moral sense- operationally they can of course do whatever they want, since they have no shame arguing for reconciliation after they were against it after they were for it.)

Posted by: _SP_ | February 10, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I'm amazed by people who complain about being forced to read coverage they find boring. What, is someone holding your eyes open to Ezra's site, Clockwork Orange-style? If you don't like his focus on healthcare read another damn blog.

Posted by: _SP_ | February 10, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Would they be able to repeal the insurance market reforms (pre-existing conditions, etc.) through reconciliation? If not, they would have to replace the individual mandate and subsidy scheme in order to make it work.

Posted by: jduptonma | February 10, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Of course, by Karl's logic, we'd have single payer today, not a convoluted mishmash phased in over a decade.

Posted by: RZ100 | February 10, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse


Not boring, but circular.

Ezra knows more about ACA than all of the rest of us but there's a whole world out there beyond ACA. It's an illustration of how the Dems get bogged down in the minutiae of a thing, and miss the big picture. Effectively speaking this administration has been all about ACA with everything else being a sideshow, to the loss of 60 seats.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 10, 2011 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, it seems the tone of your comments on Obamacare suggest that you are finally realizing that the legislation does not pass the smell test. Good to see you take a breath of reality air for a change.

Posted by: my4653 | February 10, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

The Affordable Care Act is the most significant and important piece of social policy legislation passed in the last two years, and arguably in the last three or four decades. Expect that I'll continue to cover it here, because though it's not always in the news, it matters a lot more than what often is.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | February 10, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

In a year where conservatives are constantly trying to gather votes for repealing the ACA, other conservative politicians are putting out ideas about how to reform it, and the Administration and Dems in Congress are defending it while it is being implemented, I don't know why people would expect Ezra to stop posting about it. Troll comments to the contrary, Ezra isn't a political operative working for the maximization of successful Democratic electoral bids. Yeah, there's a whole world out there to talk about, but Ezra's blog is about economic and domestic policy, and the ACA is still a bit plart of that.

As for my4653's comment, I don't know what gave you that impression. Ezra ended the piece by saying he thinks it's good legislation, but thinks Americans should get to decide what things get to be laws by electing majorities in the government. If Republicans can win control of the Executive and Legislative branches of government, they should be able to govern.

That said, when the Dems retook majorities, they should be able to pass single payer if they have the votes.

Posted by: MosBen | February 10, 2011 11:21 AM | Report abuse


Thanks for weighing in. I think the key part of your statement is "passed" as in already done. Everything is in the hands of the court system now. The administration bet the limit on this, and can't do anything more than wait and see.

It's not in any way in the political interests of the GOP to cooperate on tweaking the legislation, no matter how precisely things are crafted.

So all the speculation is intelligent and informed, but totally inconsequential in the real world until we get a final hearing. The two District Court rulings, no matter how flawed their reasoning, completely shut the door to GOP interest in reforms.

But hey, thanks again for jumping in!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 10, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

mosben wrote:

"I don't know why people would expect Ezra to stop posting about it. Troll comments to the contrary"

You and I have had discussions before without considering anything "troll-like". I guess it all depends on whose ox is being gored, eh?

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 10, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

As I read the tea leaves of Ezra's blog comments, ACA is looking pretty good.

After some of the court rulings, the idea was pushed that "this bill is in grave danger in the courts, Dems better save themselves by working with Repubs to kill or radically weaken it". But you don't hear that any more. Most of the sources I believe just don't think it's going to get overturned in the courts (eg, NYT link below).

Then you start to hear about republicans who are interested in reform. That smells like folks who don't want to be on the losing side of a fight.

And re today's Karl Rove post, yes, it could/should be repealed if Republicans win the senate and white house in 2012. Not impossible, but what are the odds Obama loses? 20%?

And meanwhile there appears to be a majority of people who like the law or wish it were stronger. I'm one. I also think it was the most important and politically viable thing for Obama to have used his 'capital' on. I think he's done OK.

Maybe someone slipped something in my coffee today.

NYT piece:

Posted by: BHeffernan1 | February 10, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse


i've got to disagree with you here (and I'm biased in that regard) but there's much more that Ezra can and should focus on in healthcare. He could also be commenting on the ACO regulations that were lobbied heavily by doctor's groups to make sure they made gobs more money than they already do. There is the aspect of who is going to design the essential benefit plans that are going to be the baseline for the insurance exchanges. Personally healthcare deserves a full time blogger of Ezra's caliber but if he did that only then his audience would shrink and I doubt he'd want that.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 10, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Wait, I thought reconciliation couldn't be used to increase the deficit. Has that changed?

Posted by: foolforlove | February 10, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for the reply. Here's a slightly different evaluation of this. Most of the posts involved on ACA concern estimates of future costs and growth, correct? Yet ALL of the numbers are dependent on three things we seldom discuss, even tangentially, currency, inflation and the numicipal bond market.

Meredith Whitney is predicting big problems in the muni market, others say she is totally wrong. However if she was right, and the market for munis changed, the amounts that state could spend on their health care plans would be drastically curtailed. Simlarly many state and muni pension funds have some keys to inflation figures. Change the rate of core inflation, and again the state budgets go all out of kilter.

We all see the re-election of Obama as directly effecting the possiblity of a repeal vote. But which more directly affects the re-election of Obama, the current unresolved state of ACA, likely to conntinue without definitive resolution by November 2012, OR the rate of inflation, the unemployment rate, and the housing market?

Some might say ACA, but without a SCOTUS ruling, I would say the others are more important.

Again I think the concentration on ACA myopic, not that the ACA itself is wrong.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 10, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

The only bill that has been passed in the last 100 years that was less popular than Obamacare was Prohibition. If it looks like a tird, smells like a tird, and rises to the surface of the National punch bowl, it is a tird. Maybe we can call it Obamatird.

We can only hope 2012 comes quickly for Republicans to takeover the Senate and have a new President that will put this in the National cat box and bury it.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | February 10, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Karl Rove is not really arguing they can fully repeal the bill with reconcilation. He is saying they can defund it, which is what they have been trying to convince people they can do now with a simple majority in the house.

What Rove is proposing is that they have to leave in unpopular parts of the bill like the individual mandate, but they can remove the popular parts, like the subsidies for lower income people. So everyone will have to buy insurance still, but not everyone will be able to afford it.

I do not see that being a popular position to take as the majority of people support the subsidies and oppose the individual mandate.

He also argued about the burden of increased medicaid spending on states, which they can do nothing about, but he said they could defund additional federal medicaid money, so any help the states were going to get, they can take that away.

Posted by: DeanofProgress | February 10, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, details please.

Could they really kill it with reconciliation?

And if so, then why couldn't it just be re-passed with reconciliation?

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | February 10, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse

WTF is a "tird"? I didn't know the guy who made the "Get a brain, morans" sign was also a blog troll.

Posted by: _SP_ | February 10, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you will agree that Obamacare has become a very polarizing piece of legislation. Passion and rhetoric is high on each side of the bill. Having said that, it is clear that some parts are bad and some parts are good. What I find disappointing is that the two sides cannot come to agreement on how to fix the problem of healthcare. Too many politicians are using the issue for political gain and are not working to find a solution that is acceptable to more Americans....AND will stand the test of being budget positive. Depending on the poll that is taken, Obamacare is popular or unpopular! Finally, the sausage-making process that created Obamacare is what really sickens the public!

Posted by: my4653 | February 10, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

This is what I dislike about this blog. There is this unilateral disarmament on the left that you don't see on the right. How many conservative bloggers were saying Obama had the right to pass healthcare reform because his party won such a large victory?

In addition, I don't following your logic. If 52% vote republican in the election, why exactly does that give their side the moral authority to do whatever they want? What of the other 48%? Why is it that the "right" decision is defined as whatever the majority wants?

Voters are usually wrong in any case.

Posted by: quarkgluonsoup | February 10, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

"Again I think the concentration on ACA myopic, not that the ACA itself is wrong."

That's silly.

There are significant forces trying to repeal ACA.

Ezra's blog is largely ABOUT the health care debate.

It's always funny when people show up where someone is trying to actually INFORM people against the desires of the entrenched status quo and try to minimize them. This makes me suspect you are an agent of the status quo with an agenda.

Coming here and criticizing Ezra about talking about health care and ACA is like writing a letter to Sports Illustrated and whining there is too much sports in their magazine. Duh!

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 10, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse


I won't turn this into Greg Sargent's column by doing the "I know you are but what am I" routine, so prevalent in his comments.

If you believe that Ezra's column should be mostly about health care, then you have already won, but it wasn't always so on here.

There ARE significant forces trying to repeal the ACA but they will fail unless Obama loses in 2012. However whether that happens is NOT dependent solely on the ACA itself, as I wrote above, but mostly on other factors.

You should also hope that this is true, because if the 2010 election results could be considered a referendum on anything (which I don't necessarily believe they are) then you would have to conclude that they were a strong rejection of the ACA in many parts of the country.

That rejection can be papered over by a strong economic showing in the next 18 months. Nothing about ACA will cause overall economic improvement during that time frame, even if you believe that it will reduce deficits down the road.

So if you want an intact ACA, which is your choice, you better hope that the Democratic Party, and those with a progressive agenda get their heads straight on how to remain in power long enough to keep it from being smothered in the cradle!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 10, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Lauren (and all other ACA only people):

Here's two headlines from today that may ultimately be more important to the fate of the President than ACA, but which we didn't get mentioned at all in articles.

-initial jobless claims fell to 383,000 a really surprising drop, the lowest rate since June 2008, which set off a lively debate as to whether these numbers are weather related or not. It's a big deal because along with the headline 9% unemployment rate, it's a boom in the right direction for Obama, but is it sustainable, or will their be a backward movement higher?

-Kevin Warsh, unknown to the general public resigned from the Fed board unexpectedly for no given reason. He is know as an inflation hawk, and so his replacement may tilt the balance even further toward the monetary easing people. This could put off any chance of a rate increase, which Bill Gross already estimates isn't going to happen this year, into the indefinite future. It may EVEN raise the prospect of a QE3.

Very, very interesting, and worthy of a thought or two.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 10, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

"So if you want an intact ACA, which is your choice, you better hope that the Democratic Party, and those with a progressive agenda get their heads straight on how to remain in power long enough to keep it from being smothered in the cradle!"

You can lead a horse to water, but....

Progressives are a minority in the USA. This actually explains why the Dems often seem spineless--they are really dealing with an electorate opposed to their ideas very often.

Even when they get their act together, that often aint enough.

What I want in this country isn't likely to happen is more important than ACA. Namely, having an equal battleground in the debate of ideas where saboteurs, nihilists and hoarders don't control the media and gvmt.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 10, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

"I do not see that being a popular position to take as the majority of people support the subsidies and oppose the individual mandate"

The American public doesn't support the freeloading parasitic liberals collecting these subsidies, nope.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 10, 2011 8:21 PM | Report abuse

The cost of Medicare is a good place to begin. At its start, in 1966, Medicare cost $3 billion. The House Ways and Means Committee estimated that Medicare would cost only about $ 12 billion by 1990 (a figure that included an allowance for inflation). This was a supposedly "conservative" estimate. But in 1990 Medicare actually cost $107 billion.

Liberals have LIED about the cost of their socialist programs by a factor of 10 in the past. Why believe them now?

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 10, 2011 8:32 PM | Report abuse

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