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How to Fight Obamacare

The Republican leadership leans toward delay rather than defund.

Sep 2, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 48 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Meadows says he would back an attempt to delay the implementation of Obamacare by linking it to a debt ceiling hike. “I’ve gone out of my way to say this is one strategy and about 80 of us believe in it, but I’m open to others. Leadership has a concern, as do I—they don’t want side effects that would hurt people, and a government shutdown could do that,” he says. “It’s overwhelming in my town halls—they’re saying we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to stop this, whether it’s [my] strategy or another one.”

The case for including Obamacare in upcoming budget and debt negotiations is strong. The law is in trouble. The White House understands this. The president can pretend, as he did in his weekly address last week, that it’s just Republicans pointing out the mounting challenges to the reforms. It’s not. Those responsible for implementing various elements of the law are worried, too. Some of them—including officials at HHS, Treasury, and the IRS—have said so in meetings with stakeholders who are trying to shape the regulations flowing from the law. And it was the Obama administration that announced the delay in the implementation of the employer mandate. There are other parts of the law that ought to be delayed, too. 

Republicans quickly, and wisely, pointed out that delaying the employer mandate without a similar respite for individuals would be both illogical and unfair. Many others, including editorialists at Obama’s hometown newspaper, echoed those sentiments.  

In some respects, including Obamacare in the negotiations this fall is a fight Republicans win just by having it. Much of the reporting out of Washington in coming weeks will focus on the struggle over the budget and the debt ceiling. By adding Obamacare to that debate, Republicans will force the White House—and vulnerable Democrats in Congress—to defend the law at precisely the time they’d like to avoid it. Even if Republicans “lose” in this scenario—if Obama refuses to consider delaying any more of Obamacare—at a minimum they will have bought leverage for other parts of the negotiation and provided voters with a clear reminder of who owns the coming chaos.

Representative Jim Jordan, a leading voice of House conservatives who has signed the Meadows letter, says Obamacare has to be part of the budget and debt negotiations this fall. “Of course we have to address it,” he says. “I’m open to any strategy that gets us there.”

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.

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