In his weekly address over the weekend, President Obama made a straightforward vow, intended to set families’ minds at ease: the Affordable Care Act is “here to stay.” His confidence is understandable, since the King v. Burwell case was effectively the anti-healthcare forces’ last real shot to undermine the law and take benefits from millions.
But, skeptics might say, what about 2017? What about the not-at-all-fanciful possibility that, a year and a half from now, Americans will have elected a Republican president to work with a Republican Congress? It stands to reason that a GOP-dominated federal government might get to work dismantling the current American health care system.
Democrats believe the law is “here to stay,” however, because of the legislative process – Senate Dems would obviously filibuster any attempt to start taking benefits away from families. Unless GOP senators had 60 votes – an unlikely scenario – a Republican repeal plan would fail.
Unless, that is, Republicans change the rules. Bloomberg Politics reported late last week:
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said Friday he’s open to eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote threshold if it helps Congress repeal Obamacare and enact “free-market oriented” health care reforms.Appearing on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, the former Florida governor was asked if he’d support invoking the “Reid rule” – also known as the “nuclear option” – to nix the legislative filibuster to replace the Affordable Care Act.
In fairness, the Florida Republican didn’t explicitly endorse this path, but when pressed on the strategy, Bush told Hewitt, “I might consider that.” He added that if the GOP plan is strong enough, “then I would certainly consider that.”
The Washington Examiner reported over the weekend that Gov. Scott Walker (R) was even more enthusiastic about the strategy. Asked if he’d call for the end of legislative filibusters in order to “repeal Obamacare,” the Wisconsin Republican replied, “Yes. Absolutely.”
Of course, no matter what happens in next year’s elections, neither Bush nor Walker would actually be a member of the Senate Republican caucus, so it really wouldn’t be up to them to decide whether to do away with the filibuster altogether. It stands to reason that many GOP senators would question the value of such a plan, realizing that majorities come and go.
But the broader point is nevertheless important. For some Republican leaders, there should apparently be two governing standards: one for Democrats, which is arduous, and one for the GOP, which is easier and more straightforward.