It's not exactly a secret that congressional Republicans hope the King v. Burwell case goes their way at the Supreme Court this year, gutting the Affordable Care Act in much of the country and stripping millions of families of their health insurance. But there are a few GOP lawmakers who seem to appreciate the fact that a potential victory carries some risks for the party.
This includes Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal last week warning that Republicans must begin preparing for the fallout associated with a high-court win.
A day later, the GOP senator, who's up for re-election next year, did a radio interview with talk-show host Jay Weber about Johnson's concerns.
JOHNSON: Unfortunately, President Obama's response to an adverse decision ... would be really simple. Just a one-sentence bill allowing people's subsidies to flow to federal exchanges and/or offer the governors, 'Hey, we know you got those federal exchanges. Just sign the bottom line. We'll make those established by the state.' And of course, he'll have the ads all racked up with the individuals that have benefited from Obamacare on the backs of the American taxpayer. He'll have all those examples as well so... HOST: And the sad sack stories about who's dying from what and why they can't get their coverage. JOHNSON: Right.
Well, no, actually it's wrong.
Just at face value, hearing the Wisconsin Republican complain about "individuals" who "have benefited from Obamacare on the backs of the American taxpayer" is almost amusing. In this case, he's referring to his fellow countrymen who want access to affordable medical care. Johnson is effectively whining about American taxpayers benefiting from the American health care system on the backs of American taxpayers.
It's an ontologically interesting sentence, but as a policy position, it's hard to take this seriously.
But taking a step further, Johnson didn't mind when conservatives had "ads all racked up" with alleged "Obamacare victims." Rather, he's concerned now because a new round of ads may cause trouble for his party: millions of families may lose their health security because of a ridiculous Republican lawsuit endorsed by Republican justices on the Supreme Court.
The host and the senator seemed dismissive of "sad sack stories" about Americans whose lives would be in danger because GOP officials took their coverage away, and Johnson is clearly mindful of the potential of a political backlash. But here's the detail to keep in mind: those "sad sack stories" would be real. Americans, in the real world, far from courtrooms and cloakrooms, would suffer if their ACA benefits are taken away.
As an elected policymaker, Johnson's focus should be on helping those whose security is at risk, not worrying about the political impact of "sad sack stories."