It’s over. We lost.
Last week was perhaps the worst week for conservatives going back to the week of Nov. 8, 2008, the day Barack Obama was first elected president of the United States.
In the span of just a few days, the Obama White House scored a key legislative victory, with Congress granting the executive fast-track trade authority powers, and two huge court decisions — one on preserving federal exchanges in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) and another declaring same-sex marriage bans by individual states to be unconstitutional.
For better or for worse, the two court rulings will fuel the fodder of the 2016 presidential race, especially on the Republican Party’s side.
Do Americans want to hear Obamacare and same-sex marriage re-litigated over the next year and a half? Will debating these issues until we’re blue in the face do anything to actually change them?
On marriage, so far there aren’t many takers, with the exception of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on the GOP side of the slate. Huckabee said on Sunday he anticipates Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.-style civil disobedience. Meanwhile, the others have admitted despite their disappointment in the ruling, there is a reluctance to take on the fight.
Using this wedge issue worked for Karl Rove on President George W. Bush’s behalf in 2004. It’s not going to work in 2016.
On “Obamacare,” we’ve been hearing for the last five years that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would work to repeal the law. There have been a few symbolic gestures, but other than a 2013 government shutdown, nothing serious.
Instead, we were told to wait and see what the Supreme Court has to say about the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law. Both times, the high court disappointed conservatives.
“I guess we are going to have to learn one thing — Congress is going to have to rise up and the American people are going to have to help them,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) said on WAPI’s Matt Murphy radio show in Birmingham immediately after the decision was announced. “Congress will have to rise up and do its duty and not sit around waiting on the courts to do things for them.”
Sessions is right. If anything could be done to “Obamacare,” it will have to happen through the legislative branch. He went on to lay out how he envisions this process going forward.
“We are in the process of developing, and the Supreme Court decision is not critical to that, but the Republican leadership are trying to produce legislation that we can pass — it would pass the House and would in effect repeal and replace ‘Obamacare,’” he said. “And because of the budget process and the reconciliation process — we will be able to pass that, maybe not everything we’d like, but under that maneuver we can pass a major reform and alteration of ‘Obamacare’ with a simple majority vote. And so with 54 Republicans, we need to get that done. I hope and believe we can.”
Sessions continued: “That would move that legislation to the president’s desk. The general consensus is he will veto anything that changes one jot or one tittle in the law that he’s been defending relentlessly. Not one change would be accepted. At that point, we would be involved in a presidential election and we’re going to have to listen to the presidential candidates and we’re going to have to look for somebody who won’t veto that kind of reform and would actually lead to the establishment of a health care system that puts patients in control of their future, lets them choose their doctor and the health care systems they want to participate in.”
With all due respect to Alabama’s junior U.S. senator, using the budget process to tear down aspects of the health care reform law is a long shot. Sessions would have been better suited to act on this roadmap had he been chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, but that was a battle he chose not to fight when he stepped aside to allow Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) to take over after serving as the committee’s ranking Republican for four years.
It’s to the point now that some of these things Republicans have made central issues for the last three federal election cycles have run their course. Like “Obamacare,” which is the law of the land. You lost this fight. You can say you’re going to work to repeal, but you aren’t.
Most Americans don’t feel the impact of “Obamacare.” Until employers are unable to offer coverage, the whole debate is just background noise.
The fix is in. Some health care stocks and stock indices skyrocketed immediately after the decision was announced. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Health Care Facilities index went up 35 percent. Those stocks have come back down to earth since then, but are still higher in the wake of the decision. It’s clear big business likes some aspects of “Obamacare.” If we’ve learned anything from the trade bill and immigration fights, big business has a lot of sway in Washington, D.C.
To Republicans, sorry to come off as defeatist but if the country is going to vote Republican in 2016, it’s not going to be because of a push for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, or because of a fight over “Obamacare.” The same-sex marriage argument is officially done. Repealing “Obamacare” won’t happen, based on past history. There is little reason to believe congressional Republicans have the testicular fortitude to band together and repeal it.
Conservatives may have lost some battles, but don’t lose the war. It’s time to focus on something new, be it immigration, national security, tax reform — those might be places to start.