In November, I warned that unless conservatives demanded change in Senate leadership, Democrats would de facto control the chamber. If you think House Republicans are bad (they are), they look like the founding fathers compared to Senate Republicans.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is now confirming that Senate Republicans are now open to maintaining the one element of Obamacare that Republicans actually wanted to repeal: the individual mandate. He is not alone, but represents a large chunk of the conference that now wants to keep Obamacare.
Wednesday, Axios reported that Orrin Hatch is now open to delaying repeal of the individual mandate until 2020 and is resigned to getting only “the art of the doable.” As we noted earlier, they are using demonstrably false excuses about Senate procedures in order to preserve Obamacare.
Let’s take a step back and tally the score of Obamacare to demonstrate the significance of this Hatch revelation. There are five key elements of Obamacare, at least as it pertains to health insurance: regulations, subsidies, purchase mandates, taxes, and Medicaid expansion.
Republicans have already made it clear that they want to keep the worst and most important elements: the regulations, subsidies, and Medicaid expansion. The only holy grail until now was the individual mandate. Now that is on the chopping block.
In some perverse way, Orrin Hatch has a point — if they are going to keep the price-hiking regulations to cover every condition, they need an individual mandate in order to keep the law even semi-solvent in order to avoid adverse selection with healthier people fleeing the market. But in that case, Hatch and Republicans have essentially accepted every premise of Obamacare. So why not just apologize to Obama, admit he was right, and become Democrats?
Ultimately, this boils down to one element: not health care, but the tax increases. Republicans love government-run health care, but don’t want to finance it with tax increases. However, once you are funding the cost-crushing subsidies and Medicaid expansion, which they love so dearly, where is the money going to come from? Taxes, of course. As such, Democrats were right to raise taxes primarily on the very wealthy.
What exactly is their complaint?
In many respects, Orrin Hatch is the poster child for the GOP duplicity game – running as a conservative in the primary only to govern the exact opposite way upon assuming office. He ran all the way to the right when he faced a primary challenge in 2012. He promised this would be his last term and his most productive one. Immediately upon winning reelection, he lurched all the way to the left and now he is considering breaking his promise to retire and seek an eighth term (after which he’d be 90 years old upon completion).
To be fair, there is nothing new about Hatch’s comments Wednesday. In fact, he has been a pioneer of federal intervention in health care.
As a long-standing member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), he was an early supporter of expanding federal intervention into health care, sponsoring the first Senate bill mandating the purchase of health insurance in 1993. He also became the godfather of the SCHIP entitlement. In 2007, he voted against the DeMint amendment, which would have allowed for the interstate sale of health insurance — a mainstay of the stated GOP platform on health care.
Now, liberal Republicans control almost every committee chair or are in charge of policy portfolios dealing with the seminal issues of our time. Yet, conservatives are suffering public backlash and a looking electoral wipeout because they are perceived as being in charge when in fact the exact opposite policies are being promoted under our banner. Worse that failing to repeal Obamacare, they have made Obamacare more popular, despite the torrent of terrible news about its impending collapse.
The issue of health care is the domestic policy challenge of our time. Much like when the Whig Party failed to confront the challenge of its time, we need a new vehicle that will speak to this and many other important issues.
At best, there are 20 senators that have a modicum of basic Republicanism in their bones, and that is being very generous. This party is irremediably broken on so many levels. If the Obamacare betrayal doesn’t spawn us to think outside the box, there is no act of political adultery that will chase us off the plantation.