Sunday, November 07, 2010


I actually think Republicans are going to get more benefit from their plan to chip away at the health care law than they would from a quick, successful repeal by a veto-proof majority:

... they said they hoped to use the power of the purse to challenge main elements of the law, forcing Democrats -- especially those in the Senate who will be up for re-election in 2012 -- into a series of votes to defend it.

Republican lawmakers said, for example, that they would propose limiting the money and personnel available to the Internal Revenue Service, so the agency could not aggressively enforce provisions that require people to obtain health insurance and employers to help pay for it....

Moreover, Republican leaders said, they plan to use spending bills to block federal insurance regulations to which they object. And they will try to limit access to government-subsidized private health plans that include coverage of abortion -- one of the most contentious issues in Congressional debate over the legislation....

The Congressional Budget Office says the Internal Revenue Service will need $5 billion to $10 billion over 10 years to determine who is eligible for tax credits and other subsidies intended to make insurance affordable. The Department of Health and Human Services will need at least that much to carry out changes in Medicaid, Medicare and the private insurance market, the budget office said.

The law provided $11 billion for community health centers to serve 20 million more low-income people, including many expected to gain coverage under the law....

"House Republicans cannot enact legislation the president won't sign," said R. Scott Lilly, a former Democratic staff director of the House Appropriations Committee. "But the president cannot force them to appropriate money they don't want to appropriate."

This is from a New York Times article today -- there's not much in it that's new, but it's just a reminder of how many little battles the Republicans can fight in the next two years -- the kinds of battles that work perfectly as Fox News rallying points. (Tax money for more IRS agents! Tax money for clinics in poor neighborhoods!)

In a way, it's best for them to do this slowly. I know that George W. Bush was ultimately undone by the failures of his wars, but I'm convinced that he actually got reelected in 2004 precisely because the wars were ongoing and he could rally his voters around the ongoing fighting; his father, by contrast, went into Iraq, got out quickly, and had no similar rallying point. Republicans will use this going into 2012 the way W. used Iraq in particular -- failure to overturn health care reform means the fight isn't over

And no, I don't even entertain the notion that Democrats, with their godawful messaging skills, will ever find a way to rally the public around the bill. They needed to do that, and they could have done it -- they still could do it -- but I say that only theoretically: a theoretically imaginable Democratic Party could theoretically have made the health care bill popular. The Democratic Party that actually exists couldn't concoct a successful pro-life-preserver message for an electorate consisting exclusively of passengers on the Titanic.

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