Over at TPM, Dylan Scott has taken a close look at the various technical and internal obstacles Republicans will face if they take control of the Senate next year and try to undermine or tinker with Obamacare.
The nickel summary is that they’ll run into institutional hurdles — filibusters, vetoes — if they try to sabotage the law, and internal opposition from conservatives if they try to legislate anything that could be framed as an improvement.
So what options will they be left with? One obvious target will be the law’s financing mechanisms, many of which are unpopular, or at least unpopular to powerful constituencies, and face bipartisan opposition. Democrats would have a fairly easy time opposing efforts to repeal these measures if Republicans proposed to offset the costs with benefit cuts or other, equally unpopular financing mechanisms. But what if they just proposed adding them to the deficit? Or tacked them on to any of the handful of must-pass bills Congress passes every year? I think it’s possible to imagine bills like that passing with large bipartisan majorities. Perhaps not large enough to overcome vetoes. But close.
That wouldn’t endanger Obamacare per se, but would turn it into a budget buster, and that would put it on the chopping block next time Congress is overtaken by deficit hysteria and Republicans refuse to raise taxes by a penny.
The mistake we’re making here, though, is confining ourselves to a fairly standard reading of legislative strategy. And there’s nothing standard about how Republicans have legislated since 2011.