Yglesias 1, Lizza + Frum 0

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Who says Romney won’t be able to repeal Obamacare? Ryan Lizza and David Frum argue that a President Romney won’t be able to repeal Obamacare, in part because the GOPs won’t have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Matt Yglesias [Backfill: and Jonathan Chait] say Lizza and Frum are wrong. I’m with Yglesias and Chait.

After all, why couldn’t Republicans use the “reconciliation” process to get around a Dem filibuster? Lizza says:

But reconciliation wouldn’t work here—the process can only be used for policies that have budgetary effects and a C.B.O. score. Much of the A.C.A., such as the insurance exchanges and subsidies, would fall under these categories. But a lot of it, including the hated individual mandate, does not. Repealing the exchanges and subsides without repealing the mandate and the other regulations and cost controls in the law would create a health-care Frankenstein that a President Romney would be rather nuts to support.

Huh? The individual mandate is a tax! The Supreme Court has now told us. Maybe the Senate parliamentarian calls it something else–but whatever you call it, it raises revenue and repealing it would have a budgetary effect, and hence be reconciliationable. Here’s Republican Congressional expert Keith Hennessey admitting that the mandate is subject to reconciliation (and this at a time when his interest was in blocking Obamacare, which meant having as few things subject to reconciliation as possible). Certainly the GOPs could cut the monetary penalty (ax-tay) for not having health insurance to, say, a dime. That would certainly have a budgetary effect and a C.B.O. score.

Maybe the exchanges themselves wouldn’t be reconcilable, but if Romney could get rid of the mandate and the subsidies the exchanges would be stripped of their power as a vehicle to ensure universal coverage. Obamacare would effectively be repealed.

Frum,** for his part, thinks politics will preclude repeal even before the main parts of the Act kick in in 2014:

[E]ven if Republicans do win the White House and Senate in 2012, how much appetite will they then have for that 1-page repeal bill? Suddenly it will be their town halls filled with outraged senior citizens whose benefits are threatened; their incumbencies that will be threatened … [E.A.]

Again, huh? Senior citizens already have Medicare. They hate Obamacare, in part because it came packaged with Medicare cuts. Why would they storm town halls to protest its repeal?

I’d like to think Romney won’t repeal Obamacare. I suspect he probably wouldn’t (he’s Romney, remember). But it seems crazy to predict that with any degree of confidence.


**–Frum makes it clear his position on repealability is part of a plodding Avlon-like battle to save the GOP from irresponsible wingnuts:

Truly, this is Waterloo—a Waterloo brought about by a dangerous combination of ideological frenzy, poor risk calculation, and a self-annihilating indifference to the real work of government.

You see, if only the Republicans had been more reasonable and negotiated with Obama back in 2009, Frum argues, they could have gotten the changes they now won’t be able to get in 2013! But even if they can’t get full repeal in 2013, can they really not get whatever modifications Frum would have had them make to Obamacare in 2009? If they win the White House and both Houses of Congress? I suspect Frum is being led into sophistry and,well, frenzy (“Waterloo”!)  by his Grand Repositioning Project. He’s more convincing when he takes a stand that contradicts that project–e.g. his unwavering and unrespectable position on immigration reform.

Mickey Kaus