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Tilly: Killing Obamacare

BY ZACH TILLY | SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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Sen. Ted Cruz, the first-term Republican from Texas, took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to deliver a fake filibuster.

During his rant, undoubtedly calculated to reinforce his reputation as a conservative troublemaker in the Senate, Cruz advocated for a recently passed House resolution that would prevent a government shutdown only if funding for Obamacare is eliminated, a measure that would effectively kill the controversial law.

Unfortunately for Cruz, Senate rules prohibit the continuing resolution in question from being indefinitely filibustered like a normal bill, so the Democratic Senate will kill the House resolution today, as if Cruz’s transparent play for a Rand Paul-ian moment of transcendence never happened.

Though his faux filibuster was doomed from the start, Cruz captured the fervor with which the Obamacare’s most stalwart opponents have been clamoring to stop its implementation.

That fervor is born of a few things — the first is raw cynicism. Hardliners such as Cruz and the sizable archconservative faction of the House recognize among their constituents a deep antipathy to Obamacare. Those members can win praise at home by playing into those prejudices by decrying the “complexity” of and “confusion” surrounding the Affordable Care Act — never mind that we’ve all had more than three years to sort through the bill’s provisions.

Second is a legitimate fear that Obamacare is bad public policy, that the reforms could have a serious negative impact on the economy and the country’s values. The economic concerns are pretty reasonable, some small and mid-sized businesses may run into trouble with the bill’s so-called employer mandate, for example, which requires businesses with more than 50 employees to offer affordable health care to their employees.

The third factor animating the Kill-Obamacare corps is a fear that the new policies could work.

As we approach the law’s première — open enrollment on the country’s new insurance exchanges begins Oct. 1, but those health plans and most of the act’s key provisions won’t take effect until Jan. 1 — indications are that things are pretty much OK.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study from earlier this month found that premiums on the nation’s private insurance exchanges — the marketplace on which the uninsured will be able to buy health insurance, often with a federal subsidy — are considerably lower than anticipated. That’s good news for consumers and the federal budget.

Iowa released cost projections for its own insurance exchange last week — its rates are among the lowest in the nation.

That’s not to say there won’t be problems in the coming year. Implementation of such a large program will certainly be difficult, but Obamacare (so far) doesn’t seem to be a disaster.

That’s real bad news for Cruz, the rest of the defunding posse, and the whole Republican Party.

For the past three years, their scorched-earth rhetoric has mobilized angry voters, but it’s also set the bar for success very, very low. Obamacare has been characterized as a policy so potentially catastrophic that it could threaten the future of the United States. It’s been painted as a vicious trick, a poison pill of socialism.

The Republicans mortgaged their policy agenda and their credibility to fight tooth and nail against Obamacare. They turned their back on the individual mandate and Mitt Romney’s successful heath adventure in Massachusetts — health-care policies with roots in conservatism — in favor of a single, sustained, anti-government crusade.

Obamacare is approaching, looking still hazy but hardly terrifying, and for the Republicans, that’s the scariest thing of all.


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