All-Star Panel: Deadline for ObamaCare enrollment quietly gets delayed

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 23, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: Two sides clearly see it very differently, so let's talk about it with our panel -- syndicated columnist George Will, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Welcome to all of you. Good to see you. All right, so we have another delay in signing up for ObamaCare. Today was the drop-dead deadline. It was December 15th, that got changed to today. Then quietly there is what they're calling a grace period. George, how do you think this will go over.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: You used the word "quietly," and this is exactly it. ObamaCare now is a tapestry of coercions mitigated by random acts of presidential mercy announced in the most bizarre ways.

Months ago, when they announced the suspension of the employer mandate it was an assistant secretary of the treasury, of whom there are 12, posted it on the treasury website. Then when they -- a few days ago suspended the individual mandate for certain preferred people, that was announced in a letter from Secretary Sebelius to six Democratic senators. So this was this law of the United States as their private property. This change today wasn't even announced. It was sort of discovered by the Washington Post, and it was made on the pretext that they are gearing up for an expected surge of traffic, which is kind of interesting, because the one person we know who signed up today, the president, doesn't even get his health care from anything associated with ObamaCare.

BREAM: But we know he was successful with his bronze plan selection. We do have that confirmed.

WILLIS: His staff was successful.       

BREAM: His staff did it for him, you're exactly right. We were told he was involved in picking up a plan but not the actual signing up process, which for a lot of folks has been the most frustrating part of the whole deal so far.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: He was there in spirit when they signed him up.

BREAM: That counts, right? Bronze plan, it's official.

But of course, A.B., we have this problem of a lot of people who are going on the website, they think they are signing up and there are still questions about whether those people when January 1st hits, when payments hit, whether they are actually insured.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: That is the big problem is that even -- there is a rush of traffic today and they anticipate that there will be similar traffic into tomorrow. I don't know how your December 23rd went, but I'm not going to have any more time tomorrow than I did today, and I had none. But someone is going to hang in if they didn't get on tonight past the midnight deadline and sign up on Christmas Eve. That said, even with really good traffic, people who become enrollees are not necessarily insured because the insurance companies have not necessarily been paid. They won't know that until January when of course they people who have their own self-insured policies who got canceled, many of them haven't signed up. They are going to become officially uninsured in January.

The administration is trying desperately with a PR campaign, encouraging happy hour talks --

BREAM: Pajama Boy.

STODDARD: Pajama Boy and the president signing up. But I think what happens with rolling exemptions, extensions, waivers, delays is it tells young people this is obviously going to go away, that there is just no way it will still be a real requirement so they can blow it off. And that is really the concern with the whole system surviving.

BREAM: And Charles, supporters will say the president and the administration, they are making changes. They need to just as you when you implement any massive new law and handling such a big part of the economy, that is what presidents do, they make laws workable, they tweak them. Have we crossed a line of tweaking, not twerking?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well this is at least the 15th unilateral change in ObamaCare the administration has made without changing the actual law. That is unconstitutional, that's lawless, that's banana republic stuff. As George indicated, the last change was made by a letter from the HHS secretary. It is the way you do it in a banana republic. If you want to know what the law is on a Wednesday, you check the correspondence of el presidente instead of looking at the law.

There is no law. It's as if the whole 2,000 pages of Obamacare, which nobody has read anyway, are completely irrelevant, it's simply authorization for the president and the HHS secretary to do anything required. And today, it wasn't even announced. It was leaked, and the people in the administration who leaked it refused to give a name. It was anonymous, like Watergate, it was like Woodward and Bernstein.

And the insurers, the people who have to sign up the people who sign up tomorrow, were not even informed. It was a simple change in the software. The insurers are upset because they only have eight days to register anybody who signed up today, and now it is seven days. They have no time.

But again, this is the administration's running the insurance companies like errand boys. They are extensions, they are instruments, they are essentially an arm of the government, and we're seeing it every day. In the end if this fails, this arm of the government, the insurers, are going to have only one recourse, and that is going to be a bailout, a huge government bailout with your tax money and with mine.

BREAM: And I know that you have a theory about what Republicans should do with that potential scenario and how they should use it in the upcoming negotiations over things like the debt ceiling.

KRAUTHAMMER: You can see it coming. Everyone speaks about the death spiral which is when insurers have enrollments that are too small and very heavily weighted to the old and the sick as the young and the healthy aren't enrolling. So if you are a private insurer in a real market economy, you go bankrupt. The administration isn't going to allow that. It's going to have to pump in tons of money as a way to keep the insurers alive and to keep ObamaCare alive, which is why, since this is utterly inevitable, the GOP ought to make a stand today and declare they're not going to allow that and put legislation out there, which will have overwhelming support in the population.

BREAM: Well, we know one of the things they are working on in the House, George, is these Republicans who have gotten together to say that they want to institute a lawsuit against the executive branch because of all these arbitrary changes. It will involve getting the speaker involved and getting it to the floor. Do you think they have a shot?

WILL: Well, I think they do. They have to assert standing, and I think they can claim an injury, which is they were paid and were elected to make the laws and they now see that they have been a marginalized institution. There used to be three steps to making a law, the Senate passed it, the House passed it, the president signed it. And now we have a fourth, which is bureaucrats, presidents, press spokesman just amend the law at whim. This is government by executive will and it is anti-constitutional if not technically yet unconstitutional.

BREAM: We'll leave it there on this topic. Next up, the battle over the definition of marriage.   

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