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April 25, 2013

Good News: House Leadership Fails To "Improve" ObamaCare
Bad News: House Leadership Was Trying To "Improve" ObamaCare

They just don't get it.

House Republican leaders suffered a humiliating legislative setback Wednesday when a large faction of GOP lawmakers rebelled against a leadership proposal that had drawn the opposition of powerful outside activists.

The mutiny forced House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) to abruptly pull from the floor legislation to shore up a program that allows people with preexisting health conditions to buy into an insurance pool for high-risk patients before they are able to transition to coverage under President Obama’s health-care law.


“Fiscal conservatives should be squarely focused on repealing Obamacare, not strengthening it by supporting the parts that are politically attractive,” Andy Roth, a vice president of Club for Growth, wrote to lawmakers last week. Heritage Action, the political arm of the the conservative Heritage Foundation, joined in the opposition.


Cantor pulled the bill after trying to push his rank-and-file members to support it during a closed-door huddle on Wednesday. He argued that “helping the sick people” was a worthy conservative cause. “This is the right thing to do,” Cantor said. “We’re trying to find solutions here.”

Boehner couldn't use his usual trick of letting the Democrats do his dirty work because they all were set to vote against the proposal because it would have funded the program with money from an existing ObamaCare slush fund. So the GOP leadership needed almost all Republicans on board but those crazy right wing conservatives wouldn't play ball.

Where to start with this?

On a tactical level, the House GOP leadership is incompetent. They keep trying to push things without having an accurate read on their caucus. This is legislating 101 and Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy keep failing it.

On a policy level, the GOP has always supported the idea of subsidized high risk pools (a dubious idea at all but play along for a minute) but at the STATE level. Now with Cantor's infatuation with resurrecting "compassionate conservatism" everything is a federal issue.

Most importantly though is the political considerations. If the GOP game is now to win over "moderates" by "fixing" ObamaCare with a different basket of goodies, the game is over. The GOP won't be an opposition party, it will simply be the right wing of the Democrats trying to make the messes the liberals make work a little better.

This is my problem with the notion that if we do amnesty than the GOP can try and win these "natural conservatives" over. The problem, aside from the fact that Hispanics aren't conservatives (natural or otherwise) is the GOP hasn't shown the ability to win anyone to conservationism since Reagan. The main reason for that is the GOP isn't a very conservative party. As I've written before, that's understandable since the country isn't very conservative.

Now that the House Republican leadership has been smacked down again but conservatives, does anyone doubt that Boehner will bring immigration up and pass it with Democratic votes if need be?

Will THAT finally be enough for conservatives to realize that their interests and those of the Republican party are too divergent to continue together? I'd hope so but until I see it, I have my doubts.

Added: The "strategy" behind this was to put Democrats in a tough spot. Since there will be a gap in the implementation of the exchanges, some high risk insured will have a gap in coverage. The idea was to get Democrats to take money from the slush fund and put it to a "good cause".

A number of influential activists, including Independent Women's Forum CEO Heather Higgins, Americans for Tax Reform's Ryan Ellis and others vigorously defended Cantor's bill.

Following the bill's defeat, Eliis wrote bluntly. "Now nothing will happen. I'd rather have tried than made the perfect the enemy of the good. Longer term, this makes this entire coalition decidedly unserious and a liability rather than an asset. But don't fret — now we don't have to worry about seven months of a federal risk pool tainting our ideological purity."


"There really isn't a difference. This repeals part of the bill in a particularly-painful way politically [for Democrats], he argued. "It does so in a way that cripples Obamacare's ultimate success. That's exactly what we did with 1099 … This vote is all about political pressure. If the vote were simply to repeal a slush fund, that creates a discomfort level of X for vulnerable House Dems. But to vote to repeal a slush fund AND use the money to get sick = people health insurance? X on steroids. Which version would you rather vote against if you were a Blue Dog?"

Here's my problem with this. Conservatives should not accept the underlying principle that as George W. Bush put it "We have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move.". This may well be good politics for Republicans but does anyone believe that any pool would have been "temporary" even if had no purpose going forward?

Once we concede an inch, even a made up one, the Democrats will comeback for a very real mile.

Again, I get why the GOP wants this but that's not the same as what conservatives want. The battle for conservatives can't be about this or that detail in ObamaCare, it's about it's underlying principles.

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