The Smart Conservative Idea for Screwing with Obamacare

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 8 2013 11:29 AM

The Smart Conservative Idea for Screwing with Obamacare

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Grover Norquist is leading the "defund Obamacare!" crowd in a new exercise: Punting.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Susan Ferrechio reports on a letter signed by Grover Norquist and a few other, less famous conservatives that—on its face—appears to step back from the "defund Obamacare" campaign. Indeed, it doesn't call for Congress to use its limited tools to force a showdown over funding the law. It's smarter than that. From the letter:

Mandates. The president has already delayed the mandate for the biggest corporations unilaterally, although his legal authority to do so is questionable. Congress should lift the legal cloud on that delay and extend the same relief to individuals and small businesses by delaying the individual mandate. It is wrong to force people to participate in a system that is simply not ready.
Subsidies. Without a complete, workable verification system to protect taxpayers it would be reckless to allow tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to flow in subsidies. And there is a real risk that navigators, in their zeal to enroll people, will accidentally or even intentionally induce people to accept subsidies for which they do not qualify, risking steep IRS fines and audits. The money should not flow when the law’s verification provisions are not ready to be enforced.
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So instead of getting Congress to kill all funding, Norquist et al want to punt the subsidies that make the law work into, at least, 2015. Among the signatories are not one but two advisors to the Mitt Romney campaign, Avik Roy and Lanhee Chen. If you're a grassroots activist, that's probably your cue to cry "sellout!" and "RINO!", but that would be a mistake. As even Ted Cruz says—paradoxically, while he makes the "defunding or death" pitch—it's going to be incredibly difficult to undo Obamacare one subsidies start flowing in 2014. People like subsidies. If you delay the free money,* you have a window in 2015 when a Republican Senate might be able to use reconciliation to just get rid of it. Makes far more sense than trying to defund now.

*I know it's not "free," but let's go along with that for rhetorical purposes.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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