Is Rubio's Amendment to Obamacare a Good Idea?
Today, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has announced that he will introduce legislation to delay the penalty for failing to comply with the individual mandate under Obamacare, given that the websites are not working. That raises a strategic question with which conservatives have wrestled for weeks: should Republicans just let the law implode and get out of the way? Or should they resist it vigorously and at every opportunity?
Sen. Ted. Cruz (R-TX) opted for the latter, telling CNN that he could not stand by and let the American people suffer in the hope that there would eventually be some political benefit. Mediaite's Noah Rothman, whose work I really enjoy, reported that Cruz had actually accused fellow Republicans of wanting to see the American people suffer. I took issue with that interpretation, but it highlights the strategic difficulty here.
It is tempting, now that President Barack Obama and the mainstream media are rubbing Republicans' noses in the mess that was the government shutdown, to let them take the "credit" for Obamacare and force them to implement it as "settled law." After all, they played their part in forcing the shutdown by resisting any change or delay at all to Obamacare. So let them take the "credit" for that supposedly triumphant stance.
The problem is that a member of Congress has to face his or her constituents and explain what he or she is doing to help them--not in 2017, when the only realistic possibility for repealing Obamacare will arise, but today. It would be unacceptable for Rubio or Cruz to tell their constituents that the voters have to be taught a lesson. So they have to take some kind of action to "fix" Obamacare, while still pressing for its repeal.
It may, theoretically, be harder to make the case for repealing a "fixed" Obamacare (if indeed it can be fixed) than one that is as bad as written. But given that Obama and the Democrats are unlikely to pass even Rubio's delay--first because they think the president can make such changes on his own, and second because they believe it will destroy the whole system's financial architecture--they will block it. That's a win for the GOP.