Today and yesterday, Jeff Toobin and the WSJ Editorial Board have articulated a similar message concerning King v. Burwell. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, it may be that the President, and not the Republicans take the blame if subsidies are not restored following the Court’s decision.
So that’s the theory: millions will suddenly be uninsured, and will blame Republicans. As Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, put it recently, “I don’t think they will [win the case]. If they do, that’s a problem that the Republicans have.”
No, it’s not. If the Obama Administration loses in the Supreme Court, the political pain will fall almost exclusively on the President and his Party. To paraphrase Colin Powell and the Pottery Barn rule, President Obama will have broken health care, so he owns it. To the vast mass of Americans who follow politics casually or not at all, Obamacare and the American system of health care have become virtually synonymous. This may not be exactly right or fair, but it’s a reasonable perception on the part of most people. The scope of the Affordable Care Act is so vast, and its effects so pervasive, that there is scarcely a corner of health care, especially with regard to insurance, that is unaffected by it. So if millions lose insurance, they will hold it against Obamacare, and against Obama. Blaming the President in these circumstances may be unfair, but it’s the way American politics works. …
For many people, the President of the United States is the government of the United States. It’s why he gets the credit and blame for so many things, like the economy, where his influence can be hard to discern. This is particularly true for a subject in which the President has invested so much of his personal and political capital. If the Supreme Court rules against him, the President can blame the Justices or the Republicans or anyone he likes, and he may even be correct. But the buck will stop with him.
The WSJ adds on a similar note:
We often ask Congressional Republicans how they prefer the Supreme Court to rule in the ObamaCare subsidies case—as a matter of politics, putting aside the law. The smarter ones usually demur, because they know the risks are real, the damage is potentially large, and many of their colleagues are complacent even at this late hour.
With a ruling in King v. Burwell approaching in June, there are troubling signs that Republicans in Congress are headed for another friendly-fire massacre that ends in a victory for President Obama. To borrow the novel idea of Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, this time Republicans would be smarter to try to win the inevitable debate with a unified and politically defensible strategy.
If the High Court upholds the plain text of the Affordable Care Act and vacates the insurance subsidies in the 37 states that did not establish their own exchanges, the White House will try to turn the disruption to its advantage. Some 7.7 million people are now part of the entitlement in those states, and their largely Republican Governors will come under intense industry and constituent pressure to restore the subsidies by joining ObamaCare.
In private, the Governors are petrified that dysfunction in Congress will force them into a lose-lose trench. If they set up a state exchange, they’ll be pilloried by their GOP base. If they don’t, they’ll be blamed for cutting people off medical care.
Yet a view has taken hold among some conservatives in Congress that the danger from King is overblown. The conceit is that the GOP can blame the White House for any disruption, and the public will agree. So do nothing for now and wait two years for a Republican President, who will repeal ObamaCare, sign a replacement and usher in a glorious future.
Interesting confluence of thought.