The Edmond Sun

Opinion

June 28, 2012

The Idaho Statesman: A win for Obama, a weapon for the GOP

EDMOND — The U.S. Supreme Court handed President Barack Obama a big victory. And the court handed his Republican adversaries a rallying point.

In validating Obama’s centerpiece legislation, the 2010 health care law, a 5-4 court majority upheld the “individual mandate” — the requirement that Americans purchase health insurance, and the linchpin of the law.

The ruling keeps the health care law on the books, largely but not entirely intact. But the individual mandate was upheld in a nuanced manner — the court validated the federal government’s power to impose taxes on those who do not secure health insurance. And that gave an opening to Republicans.

Idaho senior Sen. Mike Crapo was among the first — of many — to seize on the wording. Crapo, a Republican, sponsored an amendment during Senate debate to strip the health care bill of taxing authority, the very language that enabled the decision to survive a Supreme Court challenge. “We were engaged in that debate,” Crapo told the Statesman on Thursday morning.

Now, Republicans will be able to use Obama’s words against him: his pledge to hold the line on taxes for every American making under $250,000 a year. (On Thursday, Crapo cited numbers from the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan research arm of the legislative branch, which says that more than 75 percent of the cost of the individual mandate will be borne by the middle class).

And so it begins. The Republican House has already scheduled a July 11 vote on repealing the health care law — a strictly symbolic gesture. Repeal is a non-starter this year, and no done deal even if Republicans win the White House and the Senate.

But there is a more basic problem with repeal-o-rama rhetoric.

It skirts the fundamental question of how Republicans in Congress would fix the American health care system. The soundbite is familiar: a pledge to pursue market-based reforms. Some of the particulars have merit — such as enhanced “pooling” to help small businesses find insurance, and allowing consumers to buy insurance from across state lines.

What are the details?

And what is GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s plan, beyond Thursday’s boilerplate repeal reaction? Romney says he would put states in control of crafting health care plans that suit their own preferences — which would presumably allow states to embrace the Obama approach, or the very similar model Romney enacted as governor of Massachusetts.

Those without insurance — at least 30 million nationally, by Obama’s estimates Thursday — deserve to know what a Plan B would look like. That also applies to the 54 million Americans who have already received free preventive care under the Obama law. And it applies to 6.6 million Americans under the age of 26, who can now stay on their parents’ health care plans.

If the Obama plan is as unacceptable as its critics say it is, what exactly would be acceptable?

That’s not for the Supreme Court to answer, of course. Its job was simply to rule on the constitutionality of existing law. The court’s ruling does not settle the debate over public policy and potential options; it merely sets the stage for the next phase.

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Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

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