On Fox News Thursday, [Burr] acknowledged that this Congress won’t coalesce around his or any other plan before Obama leaves office. But he also suggested Republicans won’t be empty handed when the ruling in King v. Burwell comes down.Beutler is skeptical about this:
“I think that there are going to be a lot of ideas not only in Congress but around the think tanks here in Washington and around the country,” Burr said. “But I do say this, we're going to know a lot more after the Supreme Court hears the King v. Burwell case, and that's going to be a short-term interim response. The long-term is, how do we revamp this in 2017 and after so it works for America's patients?"
The suggestion buried in there is that Republicans will proffer a stopgap of some kind, to patch the law between this summer and the end of Obama’s presidency, and then let the presidential election determine the shape of a permanent solution.
... I think there’s something a little too cute about Burr's idea. Proposing a temporary patch is basically a tacit admission that it'd be extremely straightforward to fix it permanently. If you’re only willing to paper over the problem for a year and a half, you’re implicitly asking the justices to give you legislative leverage -- and to meddle in presidential politics -- to stack the deck for conservative policies that wouldn’t stand a chance without their intervention.But how much cover does the Court need? Ordinary people understand next to nothing about how the law works and how the legislative process works. If Republicans act all innocent and say, "We have a patch, and we're working diligently on a permanent replacement," why should we expect voters to see the cynicism behind all this?
I’m not sure that provides the Court much cover.
... [The justices] surely know that even under the best of circumstances, ruling for the King plaintiffs will create a huge substantive mess and an even bigger legitimacy problem for the Court.
... I’m ... unsure that Republican leaders could pass a temporary patch if they wanted to -- both because I suspect absolutely livid Democrats would accept nothing less than a complete fix, and because, without Dem participation, Republicans would be unable to convince their own hardliners to spend billions of dollars on a two-year stopgap, during which the law-as-implemented would take deeper and deeper root.But at that point, Republicans won't care. They hate the law. They're perfectly happy to walk away and see it not fixed, even temporarily -- as long as they can persuade the majority of Americans who want it fixed that it's going unfixed because the Democrats refuse to accept the perfectly reasonable GOP patch. Some Americans will see through the ruse, but most of them will be people who already lean Democratic.
So Republicans will offer a temporary fix, and if Democrats reject it, then there'll be chaos -- and Democrats will either have to take what the Republicans give or (as the conventional wisdom will develop) share the blame for the fact that the law isn't patched. I assume they'll capitulate.
And that forces Hillary Clinton to either campaign on full, permanent restoration of a law a lot of people don't like or propose yet another health care overhaul. I don't know how that will work out. Republicans will try to say that her plan, whatever it is, is "old and tired" -- like her! -- and theirs is shiny and new and full of Freedom! We'll see who prevails.
If Hillary wins in 2016, we'll probably still have at least one Republican house of Congress, so the best we can probably hope for on health care is the renewal of the temporary patch indefinitely. If a Republican wins, gird your loins -- Scott Walker, Rick Scott, and even Sam Brownback proved that you can infuriate voters with wingnut legislation and still get reelected. So anything could happen, very possibly including repeal without replacement. If that happens early enough in 2017, I bet most Republicans can survive it and get reelected in November 2018. So I really think they'll go for it.