Republican congressional leaders claim they are having a tough time cobbling together a back-up plan in case the Supreme Court invalidates Obamacare subsidies for millions of Americans thanks in no small part to the presidential aspirations among some in their flock.
“Corralling our presidentials on a plan or a solution is going to be a bit of a challenge,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the GOP’s No. 3 in the Senate, told Politico. “Everyone is going to be running away from — lock, stock and barrel — any connection whatsoever to the current program.”
The GOP presidential contenders are showing nearly universal resistance to the Obamacare alternatives being floated by Republicans to save face if a ruling in the case King v. Burwell — which was pushed by conservative activists — eliminates insurance subsidies for consumers in some 34 states, many of them red states.
Of the senators who have declared a presidential run, only Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has signed on to a leadership-endorsed contingency plan introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) that would temporarily maintain the subsidies on the condition that the individual mandate and other provisions of Obamacare are ended. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have suggested they would oppose such a plan, while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has signaled support for a separate Senate plan, offered by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), that would gradually wean consumers off the insurance assistance through tax credits that would decrease over 18 months.
With all but three Republican votes necessary to push an Obamacare alternative through the budget reconciliation process, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the Senate finance committee chairman, admitted to Politico that presidential politics “may be a problem.”
Of course, the 2016 aspirants are not the only lawmakers creating headaches. Some Republicans — especially in the House — say any GOP plan that appears to prop up Obamacare is a nonstarter for them, especially since the options being discussed will most certainly be blocked by Democrats. They’re better off, the logic goes, pushing for a full-scale, comprehensive alternative rather than anything associated with the Affordable Care Act.
“That’s a very strong argument, particularly when it gets vetoed anyway,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.). “Let’s just bring up our replacement bill and vote on it and send it to the president and he can veto that.”