Ryan Lizza is awfully confident that Obamacare cannot be repealed even if Republicans win the White House and a majority of the Senate. Overconfident, I’d say. He’s right, I think, that almost no Democrats would budge on repeal even after a catastrophic election. He is too quick to assume that Republicans would need Democrats. Here’s the crux of his argument:
Many Republicans, especially in the blog and talk-radio swamps, would cry, “Use reconciliation!” Readers familiar with the congressional debates of 2009-2010 will remember that this procedure allows certain budgetary measures to pass through the Senate with a simple majority. . . . But reconciliation wouldn’t work here—the process can only be used for policies that have budgetary effects and a C.B.O. score. Much of the A.C.A., such as the insurance exchanges and subsidies, would fall under these categories. But a lot of it, including the hated individual mandate, does not.
I’m in the swamp. A line in a bill that says “PPACA is repealed” would have budgetary effects and a CBO score. Over the last two years I’ve talked to plenty of Republicans who have experience with reconciliation, and they do not think this is an impossible mission. CBO, as Lizza notes, has in the past found Obamacare to be a money-saver for the government, but it may not so find it in 2013. Even if it does, a reconciliation bill could just find a small amount of offsetting savings to make a repeal bill deficit-reducing and thus, under the current rules, eligible for reconciliation.
I don’t think Lizza is right about the individual mandate, either, assuming that individual items in Obamacare had to be repealed one by one. The Supreme Court just said the bill has a tax on being uninsured rather than a mandate. Taxes can be changed through reconciliation.
I don’t know whether we will have a White House and Senate majority committed to repeal next year. If we do, though, repeal should be feasible.