This column by ACRU General Counsel Peter Ferrara was published October 04, 2013 on Forbes.com.
Those of you who are supposedly outraged or indignant over the partial government shutdown, or have friends or neighbors who are outraged or indignant, I can tell you all how YOU can fix it. All you have to do is tell pollsters who call that you think Obama and the Democrats are responsible for the shutdown. As soon as that hits the papers, the shutdown will be over before the end of the day.
That is because it is Obama and the Democrats who shut down the government, because they are so certain that the Republicans will be blamed for it. And that ploy is part of the quixotic quest of Obama and the Democrats to manipulate the public to take back majority control of the House in the President’s second mid-term. Quixotic because that is unprecedented in American politics, and is never going to happen.
House Republicans sent over to the Democrat majority Senate three Continuing Resolutions (CRs) to fund the government. The Senate Democrat majority shot each one down on a unanimous straight party line vote. Every supposed Senate Democrat moderate marched in goose step with the liberal/left party line. Even supposed maverick Joe Manchin of West Virginia, from a state being crucified by the party liberals, voted with the Senate Democrat majority to shut down the government.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp won her race in North Dakota last year by 1% running as a supposed moderate Democrat. The people of her state overwhelmingly oppose Obamacare. But Heitkamp, like Manchin, would rather shut down the government than compromise over Obamacare.
The last CR the Republican House sent over to the Democrat Senate even funded all of Obamacare, except it required a one year delay in the highly unpopular individual mandate, to match Obama’s arbitrary and illegal one year delay in the employer mandate that Obama declared by decree without legal authorization. And it nullified the special exemption from the requirements of Obamacare for Congress and its staff that the Obama Administration decreed as well without legal authorization.
But every single Democrat in the Senate voted to keep the special exemption from Obamacare for Congress and its staff, and against the same one year delay in the mandate on working people that Obama illegally granted for the mandate on big business. That included every supposed moderate Democrat in the Senate – Heitkamp, Manchin, Landrieu, Kay Hagan of North Dakota, Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, etc. They would rather shut down the government than agree to these highly popular, modest compromises of Obamacare. There goes Harry Reid’s Senate Democrat majority next year, which is really what is going to happen in Obama’s second mid-term election. (President Obama will then be the lamest lame duck ever.).
Indeed, Senate Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid even refused a House request for a routine Conference Committee between the House and the Senate to compromise over the Continuing Resolution to fund the government, assuring the continued shutdown Democrats are so certain will unseat the Republican House majority next year instead. To attempt to further manipulate public opinion against the Republicans, President Obama ordered Park Police to barricade the World War II memorial to keep out vets visiting Washington on a privately organized Honor Flight to see it. Similar barricades were set up at monuments all over Washington, including at scenic overlooks on the George Washington Parkway, in service to the cause of the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee. These crass attempts at manipulating voters that Obama and the Democrats are so certain are too stupid to see what is going on is what really should be angering and driving to indignation you and your friends and neighbors.
House Republicans even started passing targeted funding bills to address particular issues, such as providing continued cancer treatments for children at the National Institutes for Health, keeping national parks open, and funding services for veterans. But Obama and Reid refused to even consider those bills as well.
When a reporter asked Harry Reid why the Senate would not pass a bill so children could continue to get their cancer treatments while the House-Senate budget battle dragged on, Reid responded, “Why would we do that?” and questioned the intelligence of the reporter. The obvious human answer was to save the lives of children. But Reid was not thinking about humanity. He was thinking about the political consequences of engineering a shutdown in further manipulation of the public against Republicans he is so certain the public will blame. In that context, his question made sense, including his disparagement of the reporter’s intelligence. Couldn’t she see the political value in denying health care to cancer stricken children, when the Republicans would be so obviously blamed for that?
But those bills were the beginning of the Republicans stumbling upon the right answer to the Democrats’ ploy. House Republicans should go back to regular order and start passing the remaining 11 or 12 appropriations bills to fund the entire government, except for Obamacare. Pass one each day, and hold a press conference to say the Republicans are ready to go to a Conference Committee with the Democrats if they disagree on the appropriations bill just passed.
But when it comes to the Treasury Department appropriations, the Republicans should just not fund the role of the rogue IRS in administering and enforcing Obamacare. When it comes to appropriations for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), House Republicans should just not fund any payments from the Federal Employee Health Benefits program for health insurance on the Obamacare Exchanges for Congress and its staff, eliminating any special exemption for Congress from the requirements of Obamacare, because no other employer is allowed under Obamacare to help employees buy health insurance on the Exchanges. And when it comes to appropriations for HHS, House Republicans should fund the Department, except for any funds to enforce and administer the individual mandate for at least a year, matching Obama’s legally unauthorized one year delay of the employer mandate.
Then if the Democrats disagree with the provisions of these appropriations bills, they can pass their own appropriations bills with different provisions, and go to a Conference Committee with the House to compromise over final legislation. This is standard procedure for passage of bills. Check your high school civics book.
President Obama says he will not negotiate over funding the government. That is all to the good, because he has no role in this appropriations process, until both houses of Congress pass an appropriations bill for his signature.
Then if the President favors the role of the IRS in Obamacare, or a special exemption deal for Congress from Obamacare, or enforcing the individual mandate on working people but not the employer mandate on big business that is in his own Obamacare bill, he can say so in vetoing any of these bills and keeping the government shut down to that extent. But there is no point in negotiating with him in advance, because he thinks the shutdown works to his political advantage, so will not show the leadership to compromise, as Reagan did in working with Congressional Democrats so successfully.
If Senate Democrats never get around to Conference Committee meetings on the appropriations bills, that would only reveal to everyone who is really responsible for the government shutdown after all. That would only mean that 800,000 nonessential federal employees out of 2.9 million would stay on furlough indefinitely. No harm to the public in that, and it would save a lot of money the government doesn’t have besides. Once House Republicans pass their appropriations bills, they can wait for Senate Democrats to show up to do their part as long as it takes.
But to win a complete victory over Obamacare, Republicans will have to advance a complete, alternative, replacement bill, which can capture the support of the public as vastly preferable to Obamacare. Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) has already introduced a comprehensive Republican alternative – H.R. 2300. Last month, the House Republican Study Committee introduced its proposal, authored by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN). These two bills provide the foundation for a complete replacement for Obamacare that would ultimately be victorious
Roe’s proposal would expand the current tax benefits for employer health insurance to everyone, with a standard health deduction of $7,500 (individual) or $20,000 (family) for all for the purchase of health coverage, regardless of how much the insurance actually cost. That greatly improves incentives over current law, encouraging the purchase of health coverage, but only up to reasonable limits in costs.
Moreover, Roe’s proposal would substantially liberalize Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). HSA deposits not spent on health care could be withdrawn tax free without penalty, which would greatly strengthen incentives not to waste money on health care when not necessary. Moreover, the proposal would allow unspent Flexible Spending Account (FSA) funds to be rolled over and saved for future use, which would turn 35 million FSA accounts into new HSAs. The poor could also choose HSAs for their Medicaid coverage.
Replacing Obamacare, both plans would also eliminate over $1 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, cutting the now current Obamacare capital gains tax by 16%. Repealing the individual mandate would also effectively be another tax cut, freeing families to choose their own health insurance rather than having Kathleen Sebelius impose her choice on them. Repealing the employer mandate would be another tax cut on jobs, eliminating the driving incentive diminishing American jobs to part time work. Gone also would be the Obamacare Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which has the power to cut Medicare benefits further without Congressional approval.
Roe’s proposal would also address pre-existing conditions by making health insurance guaranteed issue for anyone with continuous coverage, which is feasible and workable on that condition. Both plans would also provide federal funding to help states set up high risk pools, which would cover the uninsured who became too sick to buy new coverage in the market. Both would also increase competition and reduce costs by allowing the sale and purchase of health insurance across state lines nationally.
Both plans would capture the public imagination as a far superior, complete alternative to Obamacare, if Price’s refundable health insurance tax credit of roughly $2,500 per person was expanded to everyone, in place of Roe’s standard deduction. With that done right, the two plans joined together would earn a CBO score of universal coverage, unlike Obamacare, which lets down its most ardent supporters by leaving 30 million uninsured 10 years after full implementation, as scored by CBO! Moreover, the credit would provide equal health insurance tax benefits for everyone, unlike the deduction, which cuts taxes more for those with higher incomes, exposing a long time Republican vulnerability.
In addition, the poor would benefit greatly, with a CBO scored savings of $1 to $2 trillion over 10 years, if Medicaid was block granted to the states following the model of the enormously successful 1996 welfare reforms of the old AFDC program. The poor would be demonstrably served far better for far less with such Medicaid block grants.
The bottom line is that the resulting Obamacare replacement plan would provide for universal coverage (which Obamacare fails to do), with no individual mandate, no employer mandate, and a net tax and spending cut of at least $1 trillion over the first 10 years alone. The public would overwhelmingly embrace such a Republican health care alternative as vastly preferable to Obamacare. What a resounding reversal that would be in the public’s appraisal of President Obama and his legacy for Obamacare to be replaced by such a Republican alternative based on freedom of choice, market competition and incentives, rather than Obamacare’s effective take over and control over health care.