The Unprecedented Political Challenge to Obamacare

October 6th, 2013

In Unprecedented, I focus at great length on how after the legislative battle over Obamacare failed in March 2012 when the ACA passed, the GOP turned to the constitutional attack. What I did not include in my book (largely because it hadn’t happened yet when it went to press) was the political battle that ensued after the Court upheld the law. The Times has an explosive feature document this struggle.

Read the entire thing. A few highlights. First, how the second-term plan hatched to defund Obamacare:

Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.

Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups.

It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.

To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known.

This bit was also interesting, but confirmed my suspicion. Serious efforts (not the umpteen votes to defund it in the House) to stop Obamacare were on hold while the law was moving through the courts, because conservatives hoped the Supreme Court would kill it for them.

After the health law passed in 2010, Todd Tiahrt, then a Republican congressman from Kansas, proposed defunding bits and pieces of it. He said he spoke to Mr. Boehner’s staff about the idea while the Supreme Court, which upheld the central provision, was weighing the law’s constitutionality.

“There just wasn’t the appetite for it at the time,” Mr. Tiahrt said in an interview. “They thought, we don’t need to worry about it because the Supreme Court will strike it down.”

This law continues to become more and more unprecedented. I can’t wait to write a sequel!