Panel on The Last Word: Republicans Responsible If Supreme Court Rules Against ObamaCare

Discussing the upcoming King v. Burwell decision on the legality of ObamaCare subsidies, Lawrence O'Donnell pushed the idea that Republicans would be culpable if the Supreme Court rules against the administration. On the June 17 edition of The Last Word, the host invited on the liberal trio of Ezra Klein, Dana Milbank, and Michael Tomasky to attack the Republicans for their irresponsibility and their supposed inability to come up with a replacement for the health care law. 

When O’Donnell wondered what “the state of play” was for House and Senate Republicans in terms of formulating a replacement for ObamaCare, Vox’s Ezra Klein claimed “the state of play is complete chaos and incoherence.” Klein added that the potential Republican plans make little sense because they “are trying to simultaneously fix ObamaCare and repeal it.” Klein argued that this dynamic “is the problem for the Republican Party right now and I think it speaks very clearly to the politics of ObamaCare.”

O’Donnell read a quote from Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who said that doing nothing is not an option, and then mocked Republicans by saying, “that’s funny. It always has been.” Dana Milbank continued the blame game:  

 I think what’s happening now is the Supreme Court may be forcing Republicans in Congress to grow up and actually take responsibility here. They’ve had a free shot at this since 2010 to say they don't like it and never had to come up with an alternative because the president wasn't going to allow it to be repealed and replaced. Well, the Supreme Court may, for all intents and purposes, repeal it now. 

Milbank also asserted that the Court is putting the Republicans “in a position of being grown ups and having to actually do something.” O’Donnell asserted that the ignorance of voters has played a major role in the opposition to ObamaCare: 

And so, there are all sorts of beneficiaries out there who have no idea that they are on a program created by President Obama. And many of them hate, think they hate, that program created by President Obama. And so, linking up the politics and the voting politics and the voting incentives to the Affordable Care Act has always been difficult. 

Finally, the MSNBC personality claimed that the Republican strategy on ObamaCare “is just an exercise in an ideology, an ideology that says we are absolutely against everything about ObamaCare.”  

The relevant transcript is below. 

MSNBC
The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell
June 17, 2015
10:03 p.m. Eastern

O’DONNELL: Republicans in Congress are having a much harder time coming up with a way to replace the subsidies in ObamaCare if the Supreme Court makes them unavailable in states that have not set up their own health insurance exchanges. Joining us now is Ezra Klein, the editor and chief of vox.com and an MSNBC political analyst, Dana Milbank, political columnist with the Washington Post and an MSNBC political analyst, and Michael Tomasky, columnist with The Daily Beast. Ezra Klein, what is the state of play in the House and Senate on what Republicans might want to do if the Supreme Court says, reading the text of the Affordable Care Act in that telescopic way, that the subsidies for purchasing health insurance will not be available to most of the states, since most of the states did not set up their own exchanges. 

EZRA KLEIN, editor-in-chief of vox.com: I think it is fair to say the state of play is complete chaos and incoherence. So, there are at this point at least five or six Republican plans that I know of and a number of others that we are hearing about behind closed doors, including a long rumored sort of House-Senate joint plan. But what all of these plans have in common at some level, is that they are trying to do two things that really don't go together that well. They are trying to simultaneously fix ObamaCare and repeal it. And so they have very peculiar structures. 

So you have a plan like the one from Senator Johnson where it will on some level continue subsidies for two years and then Congress has to somehow develop an entire replacement for ObamaCare. And a lot of plans have this kind of quality where – there's another plan out there that will continue the subsidies for a transition period but it will take out the individual mandate, so having fixed one problem in ObamaCare it will create another gigantic problem in ObamaCare. And this is the problem for the Republican Party right now and I think it speaks very clearly to the politics of ObamaCare.

O’DONNELL: Dana Milbank, we are hearing things from some Republicans language that we have never heard before. We have Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican from Louisiana, saying doing nothing is not an option. That's funny. It always has been. 

DANA MILBANK, Washington Post: Worked just fine for them the last five or six years, huh? Well, look, I mean I think what’s happening now is the Supreme Court may be forcing Republicans in Congress to grow up and actually take responsibility here. They’ve had a free shot at this since 2010 to say they don't like it and never had to come up with an alternative because the president wasn't going to allow it to be repealed and replaced.

Well, the Supreme Court may, for all intents and purposes, repeal it now. It's just a piece of the program. But you can see how the whole thing could very easily fall apart. And yes, it is going to make millions of people very unhappy what happens here and yes, a lot of those millions of people happen to be in Republican states and could put the Republican Senate in jeopardy right now. So, they are now in a position of being grown ups and having to actually do something. And it's going to be absolutely fascinating to watch should the Supreme Court, I think, in the unlikely event actually decide to throw it into their laps. 

[...]

O’DONNELL: Ezra Klein, there has been this disconnect between the Affordable Care Act and its beneficiaries and its beneficiaries understanding that they are actually using the Affordable Care Act since it goes under different names in different states. And so, there are all sorts of beneficiaries out there who have no idea that they are on a program created by President Obama. And many of them hate, think they hate, that program created by President Obama. And so, linking up the politics and the voting politics and the voting incentives to the Affordable Care Act has always been difficult. 

[...]

O’DONNELL: So, Dana, this is just a pure exercise in an ideology, an ideology that says we are absolutely against everything about Obamacare. Because everything Ezra just outlined would be a rational road map for a Republican in the Congress to say, look, I'm not going to leave my state in that situation. But these guys would be voting on something else than that road map. 

NB Daily Health Care MSNBC Dana Milbank Ezra Klein

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