As internal and external forces converge to delay and defund implementation of the massive government takeover of health care, the only thing standing between ObamaCare and its impending demise is the “August recess.”
There once was a time when the August recess was a chance for lawmakers to rest, connect with a few important donors and go through the motions of constituent meetings back in their districts. But this year, like the last few, is different.
Once again, members of Congress will return home to find constituents demanding answers and action. Top on their list: use every tool available to stop the costly mistake of ObamaCare before it is too late to easily reverse another cratering entitlement program.
The cracks in the besieged walls of ObamaCare are already starting to show.
Earlier this summer, the Obama administration finally admitted what the rest of us have known all along: that its premier legislative accomplishment is bureaucratically unimplementable and politically toxic.
That’s the takeaway from the announcement that the administration will give large employers until (at least) 2015 to provide insurance to employees and will waive the employer data reporting needed to ensure that individuals don’t take premium subsidies they’re not entitle to.
Conveniently, these moves will delay some of ObamaCare’s most burdensome requirements until after the 2014 mid-term elections and help accelerate employer dumping, in order to increase the exchange rolls.
Problems such as employer dumping, reduced hours and hiring, and unmanageable costs for small business — all things conservatives warned about from the outset — are making ObamaCare increasingly unattractive even to President Obama’s once-loyal supporters.
Even the hardest core of his traditional allies, labor unions, are now trashing the plan.
In a letter to congressional leaders this summer, the presidents of several major unions declared they could “no longer stand silent in the face of elements of the Affordable Care Act that will destroy the very health and wellbeing of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.”
During a recent vote in the House of Representatives — to codify Mr. Obama’s one-year mandate delay for large employers and delay the individual mandate for the rest of us — 22 Democrats voted for fairness and political realism over government coercion and socialist utopianism. Opposition to ObamaCare is becoming the best source of bipartisanship in Washington today.
When members of Congress started to complain about the exorbitant premiums they and their employees would face under ObamaCare plans, the president personally intervened to make sure the federal government would cover the tab.
Meanwhile, Americans on the private rolls get no such special treatment; they remain on their own to figure out how to pay the higher costs brought on by the law’s mandates, regulations, and price controls.
But the administration’s delays and its crumbling coalition were only the early signs of impending doom for the program.
The second gained steam last Tuesday, when Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took to the Senate floor to call on their Republican colleagues to defund ObamaCare altogether through the next must-pass continuing resolution.
They are predictably being accused of threatening a dreaded government shutdown, when what they are actually demanding is an ObamaCare shutdown.
Importantly, the small band of senators have set the stage for an August recess and a national debate that will once again show the power of the people.
Establishment Republicans like Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who oppose correcting this mistake before more damage is done, will have to answer for themselves at county fairs, town halls and constituent meetings across their states and districts this month.
By throwing in the towel before the debate, they are making the calculation that fighting ObamaCare is bad politics.
That’s surprising if you look at public opinion.
On July 24 a CBS News/New York Times poll showed 54 percent of Americans oppose ObamaCare, despite four full years of Democratic salesmanship. The Morning Consult July tracking poll finds that 77% of independents, 78% of 18-29 year olds, 75% of women, 73% of blacks, and 80% of Hispanics think the individual mandate should be repealed or delayed. So do 65% of Democrats.
The establishment politicians will have to answer to grassroots activists and explain why they will vote for a budget that funds ObamaCare. And around the country, they will see college students burning their “ObamaCare cards” in a symbolic show of civil disobedience toward reforms that force young adults in their twenties and thirties to pay for overpriced coverage that doesn’t meet their individual needs.
Remember how the sky was going to fall if the sequestration took effect? Criminals would roam the streets, grandma would be kicked out of the nursing home, and planes would collide in the sky?
This time the establishment will hide behind the elderly, the military, veterans, and national security. We’ll hear “respected” insiders swear that they support defunding, just not on a must-pass bill — for “tactical” reasons. But a government shutdown, in addition to be undesired and unnecessary, would not in fact harm national security or the rest of the litany of vulnerable people.
There have been about a dozen government shutdowns since 1980; most lasted a few days at most; and none hurt anybody, because functions deemed essential always continue while the two sides negotiate.
If a shutdown does occur, the blame will rest squarely on those who support government-run health care or who think stopping it is “just too hard.”
After years of hard work, the outsiders — the American people — finally have champions in the House and Senate.
The new crew elected in 2010 and 2012 are doing something novel in Washington: keeping their campaign promise to explore every avenue for correcting the mistake of ObamaCare.
They will return to their constituencies this recess as heroes; their colleagues risk returning as part of the problem.
Matt Kibbe is president and chief community organizer of Free the People. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, "Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff." Follow him on Twitter at @MKibbe.