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Expert Unexpert Advice

Dem Congressman Discovers Messaging 3 Weeks Too Late

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Sir, I believe you've dropped your gauntlet.

Really, it’s a very smart move.

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) is daring Republicans to make good on one of their top legislative priorities: repealing the healthcare law.

Using a somewhat unusual tactic, Ackerman, a strong advocate for the healthcare reform law, vowed Tuesday to introduce a series of bills next week that would roll back some of the most popular provisions of the law.

“The Affordable Care Act contains these and many other foolish protections for our constituents,” the letter states. “So, join other Members of Congress who want to deprive their constituents of these silly safeguards from the big insurance companies. You can cast your courageous vote on a series of SIX bills to do it. Feel free to call it the HIPA-CRIT Act when you explain your vote.”

The measures would overturn six consumer protections in the new law that:

• Ban health plans from rescinding coverage;

• Eliminate annual coverage limits;

• Eliminate lifetime limits;

• Prevent plans from turning down adults with pre-existing conditions;

• Prevent plans from turning down children with pre-existing conditions; and

• Require that insurers offer coverage for dependents up to age 26 on family plans.

The obvious appeal is it puts anyone anti-Obamacare is a jam.  Right out of the gate you’re either a piece-of-shit liar or you just wrote half of the 2012 attack ads against you.

I’m curious to see if anyone goes for it.  It depends on whether the press gives it legs.  Otherwise it just fades into oblivion while the GOP congressmen pass hundreds, if not thousands of repeals that never see the light of day in the Senate.  That said, it’s a very relatable sentiment (“Put your money where your mouth is” is something most people can wrap their heads around) and ideologues on both sides will agree with it. 

If it gets legs, my best guess is reject it on its merits.  We’re working on a much better bill.  We’re working with a coalition of centrist Dems in the Senate so we can actually get something done.  We’re building a coalition that can actually get this accomplished.  Then get it accomplished.

Word has always been that repeal isn’t going to happen.  There’s no getting the 60 votes in the Senate to pass it and there’s certainly no way to get the 66 votes to override the inevitable Presidential veto.  The closest I’ve seen to logic behind getting past those road blocks is the GOP picks up 6 seats in the Senate and wins the Presidency, and then President Sarah Palin or whoever uses her sweeping mandate (as her Reagan-esque folksy defense of conservative principles won her 60% of the vote and every state but Illinois) to woo 5 centrist Dems to vote for a sweeping repeal of the Obamacare catastrophe on January 21st, 2013.  And maybe this happens, but ask yourself, what’s the enthusiasm gap going to look like when there are celebrities all over TV getting nitwit college students excited being not-racist enough to work super hard for Obama and Republicans haven’t done dick about Obamacare?  How well do you think “Yeah, vote for me, but if you want me to get this done I’m also going to need you to vote for this other guy also and to get all of your friends to do the same.” tests in market research?  Remember, there are going to be 63 Republicans facing re-election in districts that they’re relatively new to (and will be quite different for the worse in States with Dem legislatures because of the new maps) and that were held by Democrats less than 2 years previously.

So make it a reality.  Work with people.  Find common ground, find compromises, fine market alternatives.  You need 19 Dems to have a veto-proof majority.  Lieberman, both Nelsons (Ben and Bill), Baucus, Bennet, Begich, Casey, McCaskill, Kagan, Johnson, Manchin, Merkley, Pryor, Tester, both Udalls (Mark and Tom), Warner, Webb and Wyden are all people who could be worked with.  Keep the popular stuff, develop an innovative alternative to the exchange and the mandate, and do stuff to move away from the employer-provided health care model.

The current law is terrible, it was thrown together by the equivalent of monkeys high on crack cocaine because they had absolutely no time to cram in outside of the box thinking on policy.  There is a seemingly endless supply of reforms that could get more people better health care that weren’t worked into Obamacare because it was so top-heavy it couldn’t have anything else tacked on.

That means there are alternatives.  If you sell a Democrat on a better alternative, naturally repeal of the inferior status quo has to come with.  Market alternatives, alternatives that are friendlier to small businesses and friendlier to municipalities, alternatives to the exchange and alternatives to the mandate.  Don’t rush it.  Don’t negotiate it through the press.  19 Dem votes, especially in this environment, is going to be difficult.  It’s easier than getting people to forget that you promised to do something about Obamacare while still getting them excited about you.


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