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Wonkbook: Obamacare is alive but Congress doing its job is dead

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Well worth reading, written by Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas. The column begins:

Obamacare is alive but the federal government is shut down.

That’s the one-sentence summation of a very long night in Washington. Monday saw Republicans burn through almost every demand they could think of on Obamacare. After failing to defund it the previous week, they tried to delay it. Then they tried to delay the individual mandate.

By the end of the evening Republicans had stopped asking for anything in particular. They had retreated to a request of pure, abstract proceduralism: For Senate Democrats to name negotiators for a conference committee that would negotiate…something.

This is now a negotiation over whether there’ll be negotiations.

Democrats were bemused by the GOP’s request for two reasons. The first is that Democrats have been trying to persuade Republicans to join a conference committee to work out the budget since March. Republicans have refused, and Senate Republicans have gone so far as to filibuster the naming of conferees.

But late on the night of September 30th, with the government shutting down, Republicans rethought their opposition to the conference committee and decided this would be an excellent time for drawn-out negotiations.

The second is that Republicans haven’t explained what they’re willing to negotiate. Democrats don’t believe, as President Obama out it, that Republicans are doing them “a favor” when they keep the government open. Both sides need to keep the government open. Democrats don’t believe Republicans are doing them a favor when the lift the debt limit. Both sides have an interest in keeping the U.S. economy intact.

So what is it that Republicans are willing to give up in these negotiations? Higher taxes? More jobs spending? Universal pre-k? A constructive approach to Obamacare? This is why Senate Democrats say they won’t appoint negotiators until Republicans reopen the government: Because they don’t want Republicans to think this is a negotiation over reopening the government. It has to be a negotiation over some policy question where Democrats can get a little if they give a little.

Meanwhile, The Affordable Care Act actually opened for business last night. Even as the Office of Management and Budget was directing federal agencies to close, HealthCare.Gov was permitting people, for the first time, to sign up for insurance under Obamacare. The chance that Democrats will delay or defund it now is nil. At this point, for instance, delaying the individual mandate would invalidate the prices insurers are currently charging on exchanges — and thus the insurance that Americans are already buying. It’s not going to happen.

Democrats will get some affirmation in that from this morning’s Quinnipiac poll. Obamacare posts its usual slight unpopularity, with 47 percent opposed and 45 percent approving. But the public opposes shutting down the government to stop Obamacare by a 72-22 margin. And they oppose defaulting on the debt to stop Obamacare by a 62-27 margin. Republicans have managed to put themselves on the wrong side of an unpopular bill — no mean trick.

This gets to the upside of Washington’s epic fail. . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2013 at 1:17 pm

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