The Corner

Repealing the Obamacare Bailout: Keep It Simple

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill reportedly plan to add public-policy-related language to the upcoming measure to increase the debt limit. Let’s put aside, for now, the fact that America’s national debt should go down, not up. Under current circumstances, the debt ceiling is bound to rise. Republicans should use the occasion to get something of value in return. So far, so good.

As Dr. Charles Krauthammer first advised, the debt-limit bill should include one and only one measure: The repeal of Obamacare Sections 1341 and 1342. These reinsurance and “risk corridor” provisions constitute a taxpayer-funded bailout of health-insurance companies if Obamacare’s complications cause them to suffer bigger-than-expected losses. The health insurers crawled beneath the flannel sheets with Obama in 2010, expecting the employer and individual mandates to herd millions of new customers into their loving arms. Now, so-called young invincibles are turning up their noses at Obamacare, and older and sicker consumers are diving in. Consequently, today’s slight loss of altitude seems to be the initial descent into the long-feared death spiral.

Insurers are expecting a federal bailout of at least $47 billion to mop up their resulting red ink.

This must be stopped.

Repealing this language will keep taxpayers from cleaning up the insurers’ mess. Also, if health insurance companies suddenly lack this backstop, they may crawl out of Obama’s bed, shower, and then take the walk of shame home. Perhaps then, finally, insurance companies will wise up and fight Obamacare.

Killing this bailout is likely as clean a shot as Obamacare foes will get at this wretched law until at least January 2015.

According to Fox News today, GOP leaders are considering adding to a debt-limit bill a Republican measure to repeal the bailout (sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Representative Tim Griffin of Arkansas) as well as another that would force Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. While KXL is a worthy and sensible project that should be carrying oil from Canada to Texas already, it should be added to a different piece of Obama-favored legislation.

Adding bailout repeal and a KXL amendment to the debt limit needlessly would muddy very clear waters. A pro-KXL provision will energize environmentalists who otherwise would snooze on the sidelines. Thousands of them will take the day off (as they always do) and march on Washington to oppose the debt-limit bill. This will blur this issue very badly.

A simple debt-hike-for-bailout-repeal bill would force Democrats either to vote with unified Republicans or, rather, defend yet another federal bailout of wealthy, for-profit companies (firms that many people hate in the first place). Adding a pro-KXL amendment will let Democrats avoid the issue entirely. They can stay silent on the Obamacare bailout and, instead, claim to oppose the debt-limit bill because they want to save Mother Earth from oil spills, the blinding light of welding gear, and the alleged devastation of so-called “global warming” that KXL supposedly would exacerbate.

Republican leaders should keep the debt-limit bill focused 100 percent on junking the Obamacare bailout. This will be a huge victory for free-marketeers and well worth handling as pristinely as possible. Keep it very simple and straightforward: Pass the debt-limit/bailout-eradication legislation out of the House and send it, with love, to the Senate.

Rubio and Griffin would be wise to expand their repeal language to kill Section 1341’s reinsurance program atop Section 1342’s risk-corridor portion of the bailout. This is a two-part outrage. Both sections should be uprooted, rock salt should be plowed into the offensive soil, and the tainted ground should be paved with boiling asphalt.

Speaking of petroleum products, the Keystone pipeline should be built, and Obama should be given every incentive to approve it: A KXL amendment should be tied to a temporary extension of unemployment benefits. If Obama wants more money for the jobless, great. He can have it and create jobs by signing a benefits-extension bill that also authorizes KXL. If Obama and his Democrats oppose that measure, they can explain to the American people why they would sabotage a Republican plan to help the unemployed in order to spare America the dangers of importing oil from our peace-loving, non-Islamofascist next-door neighbors.

Let’s hear that speech!

The GOP leadership needs to think strategically and tactically this way, on the debt limit, jobless aid, and so many other issues. So long as Obama is around, and Democrats run the Senate, House Republicans should engage in serious horse-trading rather than passing the Ryan–Murray budget and a $956 billion farm bill, all in exchange for . . . bupkis. GOP House leaders also should call votes on legislation that unites Republicans and makes Democrats chew their fingernails to the bone as they choose between commonsense reforms that help the American people and — on the other side — their liberal, tax-hiking, job-killing, big-government instincts.

In other words: Good policy is good politics.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

Most Popular