Monday Hot Takes

Is the AHCA back?

Just last week I was bemoaning the GOP’s failed effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. I was concerned that House Speaker Paul Ryan and GOP leadership weren’t really committed to improving healthcare in this country. No, I cynically believed the failed healthcare bill was merely a way to make revenue-neutral tax reform easier.

I may have been a bit too cynical. I emphasize the word “may.”

It was reported tonight that the White House is set to unveil a revamped healthcare proposal tomorrow. Some members of the House GOP—notably the conservative Freedom Caucus, the scapegoats for the AHCA’s failure—have been working behind the scenes to cobble together a deal to repeal and replace Obamacare. Rand Paul even played golf with President Trump this weekend, negotiating healthcare on the green I guess.

Though details are scarce, I’m not thrilled by what I see so far. The proposal essentially gives states the option to opt out of many of Obamacare’s onerous essential health benefit regulations. All good, but it strikes me as weak. How many states will actually opt out?

While this new approach may lower premium costs, it won’t in all states. Most blue states will opt to retain Obamacare’s mandated benefits. (California!)

One issue that remains a mystery with this new approach is coverage. The CBO projected that under the AHCA millions of people would lose coverage. This presented a thorny political problem for the GOP.

Under the AHCA, individuals are provided a flat, refundable tax credit to purchase insurance. As Avik Roy has pointed out, a flat tax credit will do little to expand the number of insured. He proposed a simple fix: means-tested credits combined with a deduction for “wealthier” individuals. I sincerely hope this new proposal incorporates Roy’s idea (maybe Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman’s amendment has been added to the bill).

I am trying to be cautiously optimistic with this new bill. We’ll have a better idea of the details tomorrow. Still, even if Ryan, Trump, and the Freedom Caucus have worked out some kind of compromise, this proposal may lack the votes.

Moderates—not conservatives—may kill the bill this time.

Gorsuch Confirmation Has Gone Nuclear

A sad moment happened earlier today. For the first time in our nation’s history, one party will opt to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee.

With 41 Senate Democrats intending to filibuster President Trump’s SCOTUS nominee, Neil Gorsuch, Senate Republicans are put in a difficult position. They can either cave to Democrats or they can go “nuclear,” i.e., remove the ability of SCOTUS nominees to be filibustered.

In the past, compromises like the “Gang of 14” have allowed the Senate to retain the SCOTUS filibuster. No longer.

Senator McCain—a member of the original Gang of 14—has given up hope that such a compromise can be reached this time. He is now willing to push the button.

Democrats only have themselves to blame for this. They have been escalating the SCOTUS nominee warfare since Robert Bork.

They were the ones who first said SCOTUS nominees should not get a hearing in presidential election years. They were the ones who tried to scuttle the Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito nominations. And lest we forget, they were the ones who got rid of the filibuster for all judicial nominees below the Supreme Court.

Now they want to cry foul. Well, I’m not shedding any tears. They’re reaping what they sowed. I just hope Trump and the GOP get one or two more chances to put conservative jurists on the court in the next few years.

Then the Democrats will reap a bigger harvest than they expected.