The Corner

A Dry Run for the Graves Bill

Representatives Tom Price of Georgia and Chris Van Hollen just did a segment on Fox News Sunday about the upcoming government-funding bill, with Price pushing a plan put forward by Representative Tom Graves to use it to delay Obamacare by a year.

While Price said he “believe[s]” the Graves bill “will be coming forward this week,” Speaker John Boehner and the GOP leadership has not decided to back the bill. But the debate between Price and Van Hollen, offers a great window into how the debate over that bill would play out if the House fully embraced it.

Granted, the venue was Fox News Sunday, which is going to be more favorable to the plan than much of the media landscape. But Van Hollen, a key Obama ally and one of the sharpest representatives of the Democrats on budget matters, had a fairly rough ride.

Guest host John Roberts began his questioning of Van Hollen by showing a clip of an “incensed,” red-faced union official demanding changes to Obamacare. “We’ll be damned if we’re gonna lose our health insurance because of unintended consequences in a law! It needs to be changed, it needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed now, brothers and sisters!,” Terrence O’Sullivan, of the Laborers International Union said on the clip.

“So the unions are demanding a fix, there are a lot of problems with this bill, why not just delay it? You’ve delayed the employer mandate, you’ve delayed the cap on out of pocket maximums, you’ve delayed the eligibility requirements. Why not just take a pause for a year and figure this all out?” Roberts asked.

Van Hollen quickly veered to his strongest ground: government shutdown. Price “is prepared to shut down the government if we don’t shut down Obamacare for a year.” He went on to downplay the importance of the employer mandate (“affects only five percent of businesses”), and warn ominously of the impact such a delay would have (“to deny access to affordable insurance to millions of Americans for another year”).

Van Hollen’s stance toward the call for delay was this: “We’re willing to work out the kinks in this, but we’re not going to throw out the central idea,” which he later defined as being “that individuals have a responsibility to get health care, that those who can’t afford it will get a tax credit to help them do this.”

“Responsibility to get health care” is code for the individual mandate, so it’s notable that Democrats are leading into this debate saying that delaying the mandate, envisioned by some Republicans as a potential eventual compromise, is off the table.

“The White House has always picked winners and losers in this, and that’s why they have chosen to delay or waive fully a third of this piece of legislation. We believe, however, that it needs to be delayed or waived for the entire American people – for the entire country – that’s the only fair thing to do,” retorted Price.

Roberts continued to hammer Van Hollen on all of the many problems that have occurred in the course of Obamacare’s implementation and on the apparent discrepancy between giving a delay to some people but not everyone. Van Hollen, one of the Democrats’ best, took it in stride, but the line of questioning would seem to offer hope for the proponents of the Graves’ plan.

The other side of the coin is the pervasiveness of the “shutdown” lens, which Price did everything in his power to avoid. Roberts began his interview with Price by grilling him over “shutting down the government,” following up twice to try to pin down Price on whether he’s willing to push the country over the edge if President Obama doesn’t budge.

In the panel discussion that followed, Fox News analyst Brit Hume said, “The axiom in Washington that when the government shuts down, it doesn’t matter who causes it, Republicans get blamed, is still in effect. This is a very risky proposition.”

Up on Capitol Hill over the past week, I observed plenty of reporters interviewing Republicans on this, and it’s hard to overstate how much focus they put on shutdown. While proponents of the strategy want to re-frame the debate as President Obama shutting down the government, the presumption now, and probably indefinitely, is that, as far as how the story is cast by the media, any shutdown would be the GOP’s fault.  

Most Popular

Elections

The Democrats’ Disastrous CNN LGBT Town Hall

A few days after Donald Trump committed the worst foreign-policy blunder of his presidency by betraying America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria, former vice president Joe Biden, the elder statesman and co-frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary, was on a national stage talking to CNN’s primetime ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith Resigns

Fox News Channel's chief anchor, Shepard Smith, announced on air Friday that he would be resigning from his post after 23 years with the network. “This is my last newscast here,” said Smith. “Recently, I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News. After requesting that I stay, they obliged.” He ... Read More
White House

What Is Impeachment For?

W hat is impeachment for? Seems like a simple question. Constitutionally speaking, it also appears to have a simple answer: to cite and remove from power a president guilty of wrongdoing. Aye, there’s the rub. What sort of wrongdoing warrants removal from power? I’d wager that the flames of ... Read More
NR Webathon

Don’t Let Michael Mann Succeed

I  enjoyed the running joke of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in the great Dickens novel Bleak House, back when I first read it. Little did I know that one day I and the magazine that I love would effectively be caught up in a version of that interminable case, courtesy of a litigious climate scientist with zero regard ... Read More
Elections

Beto Proposes to Oppress Church with State

Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign is within the margin of error of non-existence, but in his failure he has found a purpose: expressing the Democratic id. His latest bid for left-wing love came at a CNN forum on gay rights, where he said that churches that oppose same-sex marriage should have to pay ... Read More