By Sarah Ferris - 05/01/15 06:01 AM EDT
Republicans believe a Supreme Court ruling against ObamaCare this summer would give them leverage to force President Obama to scrap the healthcare law's central pillars.
Sen. John BarrassoJohn BarrassoGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Black ties and french fries mingle at DC's Meridian Ball GOP seeks to block ObamaCare settlements with insurers MORE (R-Wyo.), who is leading the Senate GOP’s response to King v. Burwell, said Republicans will be willing to strike a deal with Obama to ensure that the 7.5 million people who stand to lose their subsidies are protected, at least until the 2016 elections.
But in return, they would demand that Obama to do something he has long resisted: nix the employer and individual mandates for insurance coverage.
The GOP is far from a consensus about how to react to a potential conservative victory in the case, just two months out from an expected ruling at the end of June. So far, Republicans have put forward more than a half-dozen proposals that they described as ObamaCare alternatives.
The common thread in those plans is some kind of temporary aid for people who could lose their subsidies, which Barrasso said would be the crucial bargaining chip in a deal with Obama.
But, in the event the justices rule against the Affordable Care Act, Democrats will offer a simpler solution — passing a bill to fix the few sentences of the statute that are under scrutiny.
“The president can say, ‘Here’s our one-page bill,’ ” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who opposes the current congressional strategy, told a D.C. audience on Thursday.
Unlike previous cases challenging the president’s authority to pass ObamaCare, King v. Burwell rests on a close reading of only a few words of the law’s text.
That puts Republicans at risk of taking the blame for losing billions of dollars in healthcare subsidies if they can’t reach consensus on an alternative plan.
“The president’s going to stand up and say, ‘Meet so-and-so who’s got cancer. Meet so-and-so who’s got diabetes,” Jindal, a longtime foe of the healthcare law, said. “And he’ll say, ‘These mean, stingy Republicans simply won’t make a one-page change in the law.”
GOP leadership has not yet revealed its playbook for the court ruling, though leading members, such as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), have said they will have a plan in place in time for the ruling. Ryan is among three GOP House chairmen who are charged with crafting the chamber’s official plan for King v. Burwell. No details of that plan, which has been shaped behind closed doors, have been shared.
Barrasso is leading a separate group in the Senate, which has met regularly for several months and has involved about half of all Republican senators at various parts of the process.
Any deal between Republicans in Congress and Obama would also send shockwaves through the GOP nationally, since it would mean the party is choosing not to push for a full repeal of the law.
GOP leaders in Congress are under intense pressure from outside of Washington to use a court victory to force the president to veto a repeal of his healthcare law for the first time. The move would then help the law play a bigger role in the elections.
Republican leaders just put the finishing touches on a joint budget proposal calling for the repeal of ObamaCare. The language was a driver in the GOP efforts to pass the budget blueprint.
Barrasso’s support for a revision — rather than replacement — of the Affordable Care Act in the aftermath of a Supreme Court ruling favorable to the law’s critics signals a shift in strategy among GOP leadership. It is likely to draw fire from conservative groups like Heritage Foundation that have stressed any response to King v. Burwell should be centered on repeal.
But Barrasso, leader of the Senate Republican Policy Committee said he doesn't want to dilute the party’s bargaining power on ObamaCare by pushing another repeal effort.
“Since we don’t have a willing partner in the White House, the best idea for actually fixing healthcare is not things that the president isn't going to sign. He’s not going to work with us on this. So we have to have a Republican president in 2016,” Barrasso said.