Next Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether the Obama administration has been illegally providing taxpayer-funded subsidies in 36 states under the guise of implementing Obamacare, and there’s been much debate about what Congress should do if the Court rules that the administration’s actions have been lawless. A new McLaughlin & Associates poll, commissioned by the 2017 Project, finds that a majority of likely voters — 51 percent — wants Congress to propose a conservative alternative in response to such a ruling, while only 20 percent want Congress to negotiate fixes to Obamacare. Moreover, the clear majority of those who favor the fix-it approach are Democrats.
The poll, which included 38 percent Democrats and 32 percent Republicans, asked, “If the Supreme Court rules that the Obama administration has been illegally paying out Obamacare subsidies in 36 states, what do you think Congress should do in response?” The most popular response — picked by 26 percent of likely voters — was, “Propose to effectively repeal and replace Obamacare in those 36 states with a conservative alternative that aims to help people get coverage and reduce costs.”
The runner-up response — picked by 25 percent of voters — was, “Give the states a choice between Obamacare and switching to a conservative alternative that aims to help people get coverage and reduce costs.”
In other words, 51 percent of respondents favored having Congress propose a conservative alternative that deals with both costs and coverage — whether in the 36 states in question, or in every state that chooses the conservative alternative.
Meanwhile, only 20 percent of voters’ response was, “Negotiate fixes to Obamacare with the Obama White House in exchange for turning the subsidies back on.”
Among independents and Republicans, support for a conservative alternative, and opposition to fixes, was even stronger. In all, 55 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans said Congress should propose a conservative alternative, while only 12 percent of independents and 10 percent of Republicans said Congress should negotiate fixes in exchange for turning the subsidies back on.
Across the political spectrum, however, voters were united on one thing. When asked to name “the worst thing that Congress could do in response to such a ruling by the Supreme Court,” by far the most popular answer among Republicans (46 percent), Democrats (34 percent), and independents (38 percent) alike was, “Do nothing.”
If Congress fails to propose a conservative alternative, despite such favorable polling and despite having had more than an Olympiad to champion one, Republican voters apparently think the next-best thing for Congress to do would be this: “Turn the subsidies back on temporarily but don’t try to fix Obamacare.” Only 4 percent of Republicans said this would be the best response, but only 8 percent said it would be the worst. Nearly three times as many Republicans (23 percent) said that negotiating fixes would be the worst possibility.
Jim Capretta, Yuval Levin and I have written about how Congress could propose a conservative alternative that would effectively repeal and replace Obamacare — whether in 36 states or in whatever states choose to adopt it. Such an approach would set the table for 2016 and the third Obamacare election (the first two of which — in 2010 and 2014 — were sandwiched around the Obamacare ceasefire between President Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012).
Jeffrey H. Anderson is executive director of the 2017 Project, which is working to advance a conservative reform agenda, including a Winning Alternative to Obamacare.