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September 30, 2013 10:16 AM No Fixes

By Ed Kilgore

According to virtually every source, once the Senate votes down the second House-passed continuing resolution (which includes a one-year delay in implementation of the remaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act) this afternoon, the House GOP leadership will back a third CR with some narrower Obamacare annoyances. These will likely include repeal of a medical devices tax (boosting, of course, the federal budget deficit, which should be remembered when the same GOPers start shrieking about deficits when the debit limit assumes center stage), and possibly David Vitter’s demagogic “Obamacare exemption” amendment.

While most of the debate is whether these are other Obamacare strings on a CR could conceivably be accepted by Senate Democrats, the more immediate question is whether they’ll be enough to command the support of House conservatives. One of the trail bosses of the great conservative cattle drive towards the chasm this year, Erick Erickson, says no:

You and I cannot get our preferred provisions of Obamacare repealed, but lobbyists can send it their own to work for Congress to get the job done and pour in lots of outside cash to influence the system. This is crony capitalism. This is Congress — Republicans in Congress — listening to K Street and doing K Street’s bidding, not Main Street’s bidding.
Separately, Republicans like Paul Ryan and Tom Coburn keep telling us that Obamacare is so bad it will collapse on its own. But they keep fixing portions of Obamacare. How the heck is it going to collapse if Congress keeps fixing it.
We may all love the repeal of taxes, but we should oppose the medical device tax repeal. It fixes part of Obamacare, thereby removing one constituency from the coalition demanding its repeal, and it further establishes how in the tank for K Street that the GOP Leadership is.
We should demand John Boehner hear us, not K Street. And on the Vitter Amendment, while you all are clapping like seals, just remember that like water flowing, Congress will always find a way around Obamacare. But your seal clapping will give them every indication they’ve done good enough to surrender.

So doing anything that “improves” the Affordable Care Act is by definition off limits to obedient conservatives who don’t want to be looking down the gun barrel of a primary challenge any time soon.

Erickson doesn’t specifically mention still another possibility for a CR amendment: a provision repealing or completely disabling the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the vehicle for the ACA’s slim hopes of significantly changing the way we pay for health care, and thus, of course, the target of the deadliest GOP smear of them all, the “death panel” meme. Could this be too tempting a plum for conservatives of Erickson’s ilk? I doubt it, but we’ll find out soon enough.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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