First, in the event that the court strikes down the subsidies as illegal, Congress must be prepared to offer immediate, targeted protection to those hurt by this administration’s reckless disregard for the rule of law. ObamaCare took these patients hostage. Conservatives have a duty to save them.OK, fine. Let's say this all happens. Where are we likely to be as President Obama's term ends?
So within a week I will introduce legislation that uses the 1985 “Cobra” law as a temporary model to protect those harmed by ObamaCare. Cobra offers workers who have lost their jobs the option to keep their health coverage for 18 months -- so Congress should offer individuals losing insurance the ability to keep the coverage they picked, with financial assistance, for 18 transitional months. This would simultaneously avert the full-scale implementation of ObamaCare in these 37 suddenly desperate states. It would also help protect suffering patients entangled in the court’s decision to strike down illegal subsidy payments.
Second, Republicans need to unify around a specific set of constructive, longer-term solutions, and then turn the 2016 presidential election into a referendum on two competing visions of health care. Simply opposing ObamaCare isn’t enough.
Republicans still think that branding themselves as the We Hate Obamacare Party will send one of their own to the White House, but there's no reason to suspect that thatwill be any truer in 2016 than it was in 2012 -- Republican politicians and voters may think about the health care law the way Ahab thought about Moby-Dick, but normal Americans aren't as monomaniacal. Hillary Clinton will run as an O'care supporter, and will probably demand a permanent fix if one is needed, and polls still suggest she'll win the presidency easily.
But if so, she'll almost certainly have to work with a Republican House and a Senate that's either majority Rpublican or (barely) majority Democrat, with filibusters a regular threat. But if Sasse's patch has been passed, and has made the post-King v. Burwell world roughly indistinguishable from the pre-King v. Burwell world for most Americans, then the law will really be ingrained and hard to dislodge.
Yet Republicans still won't agree to patch it permanently -- you just know they won't, even if Hillary kicked their butts in November 2016 and Democrats had impressive gains in House and Senate races. They'll still be trying to repeal Obamacare. Democrats will insist on a permanent solution. There'll be the usual congressional impasse and the usual brinkmanship.
And the outcome, I'm guessing, will be ... a renewal of the temporary fix, probably to be followed by another, and another, and another, until one party or the other is sufficiently dominant in Washington to get its way on healthcare.
Because that's how everything's done now, thanks to Republican intransigence, right?