"Obamacare" supporter Margot Smith (L) of California pleads her case with legislation opponents Judy Burel (2nd R) and Janis Haddon, both of Georgia, at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 28, 2012.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

They won’t admit it, but Republicans dodged a healthcare bullet

They would never admit it. Ask any Republican in Washington – or in any gubernatorial office, for that matter – and they’ll express on-the-record disappointment that President Obama won big today at the U.S. Supreme Court.
But let’s be clear about the broader dynamic: Democrats aren’t the only ones breathing a sigh of relief this morning.
Heading into this morning, some basic policy truths were clear. We knew, for example, that congressional Republicans have made no progress in creating an alternative to the Affordable Care Act – despite more than five years of broken promises – and in all likelihood, they never would.
We also knew that most of those who would suffer from a plaintiff victory in King v. Burwell would be middle-income families in red states who would naturally look to their GOP representatives for help. Those same representatives would face enormous pressure from right-wing institutions to let the American health care system burn and treat affected families like collateral damage in a political war.
And then there were the Republican governors – some of whom also happen to be presidential candidates – who would have been under pressure to create exchange marketplaces in their states to prevent constituents from suffering. Of course, those same governors would have simultaneously faced equal pressure from partisans and ideologues to do exactly nothing.
After Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts upheld the constitutionality of “Obamacare” three years ago, many conservatives deemed him a “traitor” to his ostensible Republican allies, and I suspect there will be plenty of similar rhetoric today. But the truth remains that Roberts just did the GOP an enormous favor – had the court created systemic chaos, and scrapped benefits for millions of red-state families, Republicans would have confronted an incredible mess they were woefully unprepared to clean up. Worse, there’s a big election coming up, and the GOP was poised to be on the hook for hurting a lot of people out of nothing but spite.
Effectively immediately, Republicans can go back to doing what they’re good at: whining incessantly about an effective law, while avoiding any actual work on health care policy.
They won’t admit it publicly, but plenty of officials in the party know this is true. Indeed, Bloomberg Politics’ Sahil Kapur talked to a senior GOP aide on Capitol Hill this morning who said, in response to this morning’s ruling, “Oh thank God.”