Monday, January 5, 2015

R U Ready to Rumble!



2015 is shaping up to be a very contentious year as the new Republican-led Congress is sworn in.  Added to the melee are a majority of state governors and legislatures who vow to pass even more conservative legislation.  This is what you get when you decide to sit out an election year as many voters did in 2014.

Much hinges on the King v. Burwell case brought before the Supreme Court.  This is a case that should have been thrown out, as its premise relies on the literal interpretation of the Affordable Care Act in which only those who purchased insurance from state-run exchanges are eligible for subsidies.  This would rule out a significant number of persons who purchased their insurance through the federal health insurance exchange since most Republican states refused to set up their own exchanges.

This case illustrates just how low Republicans will go to defeat the ACA, as it has to be one of the pettiest cases ever brought before the USSC.  The vote comes down to Roberts or Kennedy, as you can bet that Scalia, Alito and Thomas will all vote the conservative line.  If the subsidies are voted down this will be a major strike against the ACA, and greatly encourage the Republican-led Congress and red state governments to try to drive the final nails into the coffin of "Obamacare," putting Obama on his heels as he desperately tries to salvage what is left of the federal program.

If the subsidies are upheld, Congress will have to shift gears and focus on immigration, which it has deferred for a year and a half.  Here we see strong divisions within the Republican party, as there are those who want to see meaningful reform and would likely work with Democrats to reach a compromise solution to the impasse over the Senate bill passed in June, 2013.  The major roadblock will be in the House, which is even more conservative than it was last year with none other than Louie Gohmert challenging John Boehner for House Speaker.

Best case scenario for the Democrats is that this infighting splits the Republicans in two or more parts making it difficult for Boehner and McConnell to lead their majorities.  The Republicans can no longer hold the White House hostage over a spending bill, so Obama would be able to continue using executive orders to carry through on his domestic agenda.  This would allow him to complete the "arcs" his administration set 6 years ago and leave a substantial legacy.

However, you can bet that McConnell and Boehner will do everything in their power to make that as difficult as possible.  First on deck -- Keystone XL, which has been a Republican pipedream for six years.  Mitch is banking on enough Democratic turncoats to override a presidential veto.

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