Health

Grover Norquist Almost Comes Up With a Clever Plan to Fight Obamacare

| Thu Aug. 8, 2013 5:00 PM EDT

Dave Weigel alerts me today to a "smarter" version of the conservative obsession with repealing Obamacare. It comes from Grover Norquist and a supporting cast of about a dozen right-wing luminaries. Here it is:

  1. Mandates. The president has already delayed the mandate for the biggest corporations unilaterally....Congress should lift the legal cloud on that delay and extend the same relief to individuals and small businesses by delaying the individual mandate.
  2. Subsidies. Without a complete, workable verification system to protect taxpayers it would be reckless to allow tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to flow in subsidies....The money should not flow when the law’s verification provisions are not ready to be enforced.
  3. Taxes. The American people should not be forced to pay higher taxes for a system that isn’t ready.

Um, what? How is this smarter? Instead of simply repealing Obamacare, this plan proposes repeal of the individual mandate, the subsidies, and the taxes that pay for it. But that's practically the whole bill. Aside from the Medicaid expansion, the only thing left is the guarantee of private coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

(And why is that one provision left alone? Hard to say. The charitable explanation is that it's very popular, so Norquist doesn't want to oppose it. The less charitable explanation is that keeping it around without the subsidies or the mandate would be a disaster for insurance companies, which would turn them into enemies of Obamacare. Take your pick.)

The problem is that politically, this is as much a nonstarter as full repeal. So it's only smart if it makes a dent with the public. But I don't see how. It's too complicated for most people to understand or care about.

Actually, I think Norquist came close to a winner with this proposal, but then whiffed. What he should have proposed is a flat one-year delay for the whole bill. That's easy to understand and easy to defend, and it's the perfect complement for all the horror stories conservatives are ginning up about problems with implementation. It's still a nonstarter politically, but at least it would force Democrats to defend the law more vigorously than they are right now, and maybe even to overreach and make promises they can't keep. Unfortunately for Norquist, I suppose the true believers never would have gotten behind it. It would have seemed like too much of a sellout. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

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