Last night, the Senate passed a budget resolution. This budget included the first step in repealing Obamacare: setting the situation so that key parts can be repealed by reconciliation. Contra the Left, this did not repeal any part of Obamacare; it set the stage for repeal.
The budget has significant issues, mainly in that it adds $9 trillion in debt over the next ten years, with no significant cuts to spending or entitles and no tax increases or changes. That’s just the baseline right now. If Trump is serious about enacting a giant tax cut when he gets into office, we could be staring down $20 trillion in debt over the next decade, a budget hole that makes Obama and Bush look like models of fiscal rectitude.
As for the Obamacare repeal, I am against a naked repeal of the bill without a replacement in place. Simply repealing the law would throw insurance markets into chaos, throw at least 20 million people off of insurance and roil a sixth of our economy. Indeed, a number of people — including hospitals, insurance companies and state governors — are lining up against a naked repeal for just this reason.
The model I prefer is repeal and replace, enacting a new healthcare reform act. There are several proposals out there but the problem here is getting it passed as one bill. Democrats will oppose and while Obamacare can be repealed with a simple majority, a new bill can not be enacted without a supermajority.
That brings us to the current strategy which is called “repeal and delay”. The idea is that the GOP would repeal Obamacare now, sunsetting it in two years. That would give them two years to come up with a replacement and put Democrats in the position of either supporting the GOP bill or letting Obamacare die.
It’s also one of the most reckless things I can imagine.
Look, we’ve been here before. We have seen Congress enact laws to try to force future Congresses to make tough choices. And it always been a disaster. Because there is no reason to think that future Congress will be any bolder or smarter than present Congress. So we enact tax cuts hoping to “starve the beast” — a trick akin to eating a huge slice of cake to try to force yourself to go the gym. And deficits explode because Congress decides massive debt is politically easier than spending cuts. We enact a sequester thinking that such a dumb way of cutting spending will force Congress to do it more wisely. And the sequester is enacted anyway because choices are hard. “Repeal and delay” is simply shoving 20 million people out of an airplane with a vague promise that you’ll get a parachute to them at some stage.
Trump appears opposed to “repeal and delay” as do many key members of Congress. But they can only delay so long as we are already seeing the beginning of a death spiral in individual insurance markets. This is a problem I have been shouting about ever since Obamacare passed: the GOP needed an alternative. Not a bunch of conflicting vague plans, but an actual plan that the entire caucus had agreed to.
My prediction? I think Trump isn’t so dumb as to think “repeal and delay” is a great idea. I suspect what will happen is that the GOP will pass a series of fixes to Obamacare to gradually repeal and replace it with a sounder and more market-oriented system (step one: allow insurance to be sold across state lines). And as long as it gets rebranded “Trumpcare”, I expected the President to go along with it.
Update: There’s a great tweetstorm from Justin Amash — rapidly becoming one of my favorite members of Congress — about why he voted against the bill.
1/ Confused about what the House voted on today? You're not alone. I hope you'll find this explanation (in the following tweets) helpful.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 14, 2017
To read it, click on the date at the bottom of the tweet and then scroll down through the points he makes.