Saturday, August 7, 2010

Attacks Against Healthcare Reform

Here's an interesting Washington Post article by Ezra Klein on the Republican efforts to stop healthcare reform:

The conservative effort to undermine health-care reform

I'm really not sure why conservatives are so excited that an electorate primarily made of Republican primary voters passed an anti-individual mandate ballot initiative in Missouri. I don't even understand why conservatives would be excited if it passed during a normal election.

For one thing, states can't invalidate federal laws. If a Republican Congress privatized Social Security and Vermont didn't like it, a ballot initiative wouldn't invalidate the law. If Paul Ryan passed his legislation to turn Medicaid into a program of vouchers and private insurance options, Massachusetts couldn't overturn it. The federal government has long resisted letting states decide which federal laws to follow and which to avoid. It will continue to resist.

Moreover, the focus on the individual mandate speaks to how weak the conservative case against the bill is. The individual mandate can be replaced. That wouldn't be a good thing, but you could substitute automatic enrollment, or some form of lock-out. Remember, Barack Obama's campaign health-care plan didn't have an individual mandate. The individual mandate, in fact, originated as a conservative idea. It's a good idea, in many ways, but it's not irreplaceable.

Much more dangerous is the Republican strategy to refuse to appropriate the funds the bill needs. But Republicans are going to have to think hard about that one: If they set the precedent that one side can erode legislation they don't like by refusing to fund it, the same is going to happen to their eventual accomplishments. Policy stability will disappear, as it will become normal for the opposition party to defund the other side's legislation when they take power. This wouldn't be the first time Congress has made a disastrous move toward gridlock and dysfunction, but it would be the one that scares the business community the most, as it would effectively end their ability to plan for the future.

By Ezra Klein
August 5, 2010; 12:05 PM ET

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