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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Obamacare’s demise is the goose that laid the golden egg for GOP

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How do you turn a would-be heartbreaking loss into total victory?

If you’re the Miami Dolphins about to fall to the New England Patriots (on December 9) you throw a mid-length pass, count on your players to execute a couple impromptu laterals and then task one of your fastest players with outrunning the defense (and a clearly out-of-his-element Rob Gronkowski) to the end zone.

In Washington, if you’re the lame duck Republican Congress you pass a budget containing funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall… and, if you’re really clever, you use your last few days in power to make the most of the enormous political gift received courtesy of a wise federal judge in Texas last Friday. The judge accepted the arguments of 20 Republican state attorneys general and invalidated the entire Obamacare law, realizing in one fell swoop what the hapless GOP leadership couldn’t accomplish in months’ worth of deliberations.

Tom Howell Jr. reported at The Washington Times over the weekend, “Obamacare is fatally flawed and should be considered null and void, a federal judge said Friday in a bombshell ruling that sides with state Republicans who argue the GOP-led Congress’ decision to gut the ‘individual mandate’ penalty for going uninsured makes the rest of the program invalid.

“The court ‘finds the individual mandate, unmoored from a tax, is unconstitutional,’ U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor, an appointee of President George W. Bush presiding in Texas, wrote in his opinion.

“The decision is a huge swipe at the 2010 law and sets the stage for a bigger fight in appeals courts. It will also reverberate on Capitol Hill, where Democrats are set to retake the House majority after running on a pro-Obamacare platform and criticizing GOP candidates who failed to devise a fallback plan if the lawsuit is tossed in the end.”

Wow. What a way to conclude what has been a momentous year in the presidency of Donald Trump -- and in the annals of the American republic. The hopelessly mislabeled Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, has hovered over the American people like a summertime cumulonimbus cloud dropping copious amounts of acid rain, baseball-sized hail and spawning tornados on the fiscal fortunes of ordinary people and small business owners for years now.

In last year’s tax reform bill Republicans effectively eliminated the Supreme Court’s prior justification for upholding the law -- that it was a tax under Congress’s constitutional power to raise revenues (even though the House alone is constitutionally permitted to introduce taxes and the version of the ACA bill that ultimately passed originated in the senate -- how’s that for a legalistic quirk?) and therefore contained a legitimate rationale. Republicans didn’t completely eliminate the penalty (for not signing up for nationally controlled healthcare) -- but lowered it to zero.

No penalty, no tax, no revenue. Therefore, the “incentive,” otherwise known as the individual mandate, was history. Legislatively speaking there was no severability clause contained within the ACA’s language and the 20 state attorneys general argued the whole law is therefore invalid. Judge O’Connor accepted their pleas and tossed Obamacare out like a picked clean rib bone at a Texas barbecue. Rejoice and be glad, people, deliverance (from the federal leviathan at least) is at hand!

O’Connor’s opinion stated (from David Catron at The American Spectator), “The Court’s analysis involves three separate inquiries and conclusions: First, the Court finds the Parties satisfy the applicable standing requirements. Second, the Court finds the Individual Mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause — meaning the Individual Mandate is unconstitutional. Third, the Court finds the Individual Mandate is essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA.”

Voila -- no more Obamacare!

As would be expected Democrats didn’t take the news well. Howell’s article contained several quotes from Democrats dissing the court’s opinion and vowing to return Obamacare to its formerly oppressive role, either through the appeals process (which would take time, first to overcome the federal appeals courts and then the Supreme Court, should four justices decide to accept another highly controversial case on the unintelligible law) or through congressional action.

The Supreme Court could easily see further prolonging of Obamacare’s life as fruitless and just do nothing. Assuming the Fifth Circuit goes along with O’Connor’s ruling, Obamacare would then be sent to the mortuary to prepare it for burial…or cremated. That works too.

For now it seems Americans are free to ignore Obamacare -- at least for individuals (though the marketplace will not be thrown into turmoil). I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of the law (and its tens of thousands of pages of regulations) and what’s supposed to go where, but I do know there are a ton of ticked off Democrats griping and moaning about how people with preexisting conditions will now be proverbially screwed and sick folks everywhere will die in the streets because some radical conservative Bush-appointee judge took everyone’s healthcare into his own hands and singlehandedly wrecked years of benevolent Democrat stewardship.

Boo hoo! By having a constitutional originalist federal judge strike down something meaningful to them it’s apparent Democrats are getting a taste of their own bitter medicine. To the hypocrite party it’s fine whenever a liberal judge strikes down President Trump’s inherently constitutional powers to regulate immigration and national security but it isn’t kosher when a jurist with a different philosophy does the same thing with the flimsily supported Obamacare monstrosity.

If only Chief Justice John Roberts hadn’t bowed to enormous political pressure (in the infamous National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius case) to uphold Obamacare and struck down the law in 2012 when the Supreme Court had the chance. None of this would be at issue today. The House was in Republicans’ hands at that point and there’s no way a “fixed” version of the bill would’ve survived this long.

It didn’t happen. But it was clearly within Republicans’ purview to finally keep years of campaign promises and repeal the law this term. Needless to say, much of last year’s congressional session was chewed up by the back-and-forth intraparty backbiting over repealing Obamacare and replacing it with something much more viable as well as addressing the “popular” provisions which the American people still supported.

Republicans didn’t get it done. The senate’s last ditch attempt at “skinny” repeal was shot down by RINO senators Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and “Benedict Arnold” John McCain (in the latter’s case, literally at the last minute). The GOP failed. They’d squandered the perfect opening to do something worthwhile and necessary with the power they’d won in 2016.

Democrats and the media placed all the blame on Trump, but did the president cast a vote on the floor of Congress? Trump indicated he’d sign anything Congress sent him, so it wasn’t exactly his doing that Republican leaders couldn’t shepherd their stray cats into a coherent herd. In 2010 Nancy Pelosi all-but twisted several of her members’ arms to pass Obamacare without a single Republican vote but Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell (and crew) couldn’t repeat the feat, despite a friendly president waiting to do his part.

So-called “moderate” Republicans in suburban districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016 indicated they couldn’t vote for a full repeal because it wasn’t “popular” at home (and they’d risk losing their seats). So, they stalled…and still ended up losing to Democrat opponents anyway. So much for that excuse.

Liberal pundits and #NeverTrumpers are quick to blame last month’s House Republican losses on Trump and his Twitter thumbs but a more realistic analysis shows the downward slide began when the GOP wasted half a year deliberating on what to do about Obamacare. In the process no one was satisfied -- except for Democrats and media members who’d predicted doom would ensue if Trump was ever permitted to take the oath of office.

Now -- finally -- Republicans can yank victory out of the jaws of defeat if they’ll only pass a few laws before the end of the month. Roger L. Simon wrote at PJ Media, “The only part of this legislation people seemed to like — in fact, the only part they seem to remember, if you listen to the talking heads — was the requirement to insure those with pre-existing conditions (cancer, heart disease, etc.).

“This one aspect of the ACA remains crucial and is considered just by a large percentage of the population. Republicans would be well-advised to move on preserving this requirement immediately and find a way to codify it with new legislation. Yes, this judicial decision was a surprising turn of events, but that should be the impetus to act more quickly, even during the lame-duck session.

“Indeed, the GOP would be smart to move swiftly to draft new targeted healthcare legislation that includes one or two other popular favorites, such as the ability to seek insurance across state lines, creating competition, and lowering prices.”

In doing so Republicans would shoot down every Democrat major justification for keeping Obamacare as well as pull the rug out from under the new House majority’s fantasies of passing “Medicare-for-all” or some other disastrous form of nationalized healthcare. Several Republicans pointed out the party already approved protections for preexisting conditions (in the House) but were never able to get a bill onto Trump’s desk.

As if the battle over President Donald Trump’s border wall wasn’t enough, now lawmakers must grapple with what to do to replace Obamacare -- and they’ve only got a few days left to do it. If ever there was a time to adhere to the Founding Fathers’ advice and draft bills no longer than a single page it’s now. Reform doesn’t have to be complicated; there isn’t time for the special interests’ lobbyists to sink their claws into legislation this time.

Take a basic concept and move on a simple solution. Is the GOP establishment up to it?

If not, Obamacare will certainly be taken up in the next Congress. Expect weeks and months full of Democrat pontificating and bloviating over healthcare with members and senators demonizing every Republican who objects to whatever hopelessly expensive nationalized scheme they conjure up. This time a “new” Obamacare won’t be initiating in the Senate, so the Pelosi-led House is on its own. Good luck, Nancy -- things are a lot different now than they were in 2010 (when Obamacare originally squeaked by) and you’ve got kooks like newly elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exhaling socialist fire with every breath.

These people won’t be satisfied with a mere legislative “patches” for an Obamacare system that still preserved a smidgen of private choice. No, they want it all -- and they see it as their chance.

Some Democrats might even be relieved Obamacare’s gone; it clears the ledger to create something bigger, more intrusive, costlier and most importantly, more totalitarian. Whatever the Democrats’ House bill ends up being doesn’t have a ghost of a chance of passing the GOP controlled senate or earning Donald Trump’s signature -- but it’ll be a heck of a campaign issue for 2020, won’t it?

Who knows, we might even see wishy-washy #NeverTrump Republicans ruing the destruction of Obamacare. Outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich was one of a few prominent GOP state chief executives to welcome Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion -- and he’s continuing to make rumbles about a possible run in the 2020 party primaries against Trump.

Kate Sullivan reported at CNN, “Ohio Gov. John Kasich suggested he may run against President Donald Trump in the 2020 Republican primary after Trump said he hoped Kasich would do so. ‘Be careful what you wish for,’ a spokesperson for Kasich, John Weaver, said in a statement in response to the President's comments.

“Kasich ran for president in 2016 and lost to Trump in the primary. When the governor dropped out of the presidential race, he did not endorse Trump. Kasich has remained an outspoken critic of the President.

“Fox News' Harris Faulkner said in an interview with Trump that aired Thursday: ‘I'm going to bring up John Kasich and I'm going to bring up Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake because they say they may run against you in 2020 -- ‘ … ‘I hope so,’ Trump responded before Faulkner finished her sentence.”

Trump has every reason to hope Kasich or Flake -- or someone similarly inclined -- is stupid enough to try and bump him off in the GOP primaries. It’ll only highlight how effective Trump was in acting on a very traditional Republican agenda and how the hypocrite #NeverTrumpers don’t keep their word and only complain about non-presidential behavior.

Trump would welcome with open arms the additional exposure a primary challenge would engender. How else could he hope to compete for attention against the gaggle of loons in the Democrat presidential campaign?

With the downing of Obamacare last week Republicans now have a golden opportunity to make something worthwhile out of the last days of this lame duck session. With budget talks stalled over the border wall there’s something new to talk about and accomplish if they’ll only take advantage.

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