Can Spite and a Delayed Medical Device Tax Save America?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 15 2013 2:10 PM

Can Spite and a Delayed Medical Device Tax Save America?

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"I think it's time that the president go into Obamacare," Rep. Darrell Issa told reporters. "And I mean really into Obamacare."

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It's easy to get distracted by the minute-to-minute derp and ephemera (derphemera?) of these unending debt limit/CR proposals. If you want to be an optimist, though, think about it: The House has moved steadily away from real demands to scale back the Affordable Care Act. To recap the comprehensive deals since the "defund Obamacare" strategy began:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Plan A: Fund the entire government, but defund Obamacare.
Plan B: Fund the entire government, but delay by a year the full implementation of Obamacare.
Plan C: Pass piecemeal CRs until the Senate agrees to some delay of Obamacare.
Plan D: Fund the entire government, but end the medical device tax and require all federal employees to enter the Obamacare exchanges but be denied employer subsidies.
Plan E (current plan): Fund the entire government, delay the medical device tax by two years, require only members of Congress and high-level executive branch officials to take the no-subsidies Obamacare deal, and enforce the income verification component of Obamacare.
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That's quite the scale-down, and it's astonishingly difficult to see what Republicans actually gained from their first hard negotiating position.

"For people from the Cruz wing of the party who say we got a better deal, I say we would have gotten a better deal had we not shut the government down and gotten right to debt negotiation," said New York Rep. Peter King, who has not constructed more than two sentences recently without attacking Cruz. "But now we're up against the wall thanks to their strategy."

The secret to avoiding this truth: Just whale on the administration and Democrats in Congress for not wanting to be included in health care exchanges. You can see a good example of the rhetoric here, from Rep. Darrell Issa.

That's the spirit! You've got measures that embarrass the Democrats and poll well, and you've got an industry priority in what my friend Ben Jacobs calls the "nearly half-decade movement to repeal and replace the medical device tax." You can take this back to your donors and your base and make at least one of those groups (spoiler: the donors) quite happy.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.