Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo writes:
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act are having a slight disagreement over what approach to take if the Supreme Court strikes the individual mandate. Some Democrats want to make a swift, aggressive push to restore a mandate or some incentive for people to buy health insurance; others want to shake it off and press ahead under the assumption that the law will work pretty well without a mandate if it comes to that.Beutler thinks it doesn't matter one way or another. After the ruling, he predicts, we'll enter a sort of limbo:
But the fact is that if the mandate falls next week, nothing will happen. Then the next week, nothing will happen. Nothing again the week after that, and nothing will continue to happen for the next 70 weeks, which is roughly when the bulk of the law takes effect. In the meantime, Congress can do something, or it can do nothing, Democratically controlled states can step in, or not. If lawmakers move aggressively and fix it in advance, great. If they don't and then in 2014 the reforms start to wobble, Congress will do something, or a lot of states will pass their own laws to broaden the risk pools, and things will settle down. That's my hunch at least — that if the policy becomes unsustainable, then the politics of not fixing it will be unsustainable too.But that's not what's likely to happen. If the Supreme Court does administer this back-alley beating -- and I've said for a while that I believe the Court will strike down the mandate but uphold or most of the law otherwise, so Mitt Romney and the GOP can still use it to rally voters -- then the GOP will swiftly set plans in motion to do the law further harm. After all, the party's prime directive in all this is to make sure Democrats never get credit for a popular program. They can't permit it to succeed. They can't permit it to take effect in any way that can be viable.
If the rest of the health care law is upheld and Obama wins reelection, I think the response is going to resemble the right's approach to abortion in the wake of Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 and the election of Bill Clinton a few months later. Republicans can't repeal or overturn the hated law? Fine -- they'll just hobble it. Much of the battle is just going to shift to the states -- I think Republicans will push for non-cooperation by governors and state legislators, and try to elect as many governors and legislators as possible who'll pledge to gum up the works at the state level.
In Washington, I think there'll be a lot of brinkmanship focused on funding any aspect of the law that the Supremes have allowed to stand -- whatever Republicans can do to cripple the law at the federal level, in budget battles or in provisions tacked on to unrelated measures, they'll try to do.
This fight will never end until they win or they overreach. We're not going to enter any sort of lull period. The fever isn't going to break.