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November 16, 2012 11:12 AM The Tanning Tax, the GOP, and the 113th Congress

By Jonathan Bernstein

Matt Yglesias had a nice item yesterday about a tanning salon owner who reportedly killed himself, blaming Barack Obama. The point Yglesias made was that, this tragedy aside, in his view the tanning tax is a silly way to finance the ACA.

I have no idea whether he’s right or not. But it brings up a major question about health care reform and the Republicans. As many of us have said many times, the consequence of the original rejectionist gamble the GOP made in 2009-2010 was that they had a lot less input into…well, into anything than they would have had if they had instead attempted to negotiate for their priorities. That approach would still have yielded plenty of filibusters and unified Republican conference votes against those things that they really cared about, but it would have produced plenty of other bills that featured real GOP contributions.

All that, of course, is ancient history at this point.

But the biggest residue of the 2009-2010 rejectionist strategy is that it’s been impossible for Congress and the president to go back and fix anything sloppy or ill-advised in ACA or other major legislation.

So, now we’re going to be talking 2013, with a re-elected president and a Democratic Senate; repeal of ACA (or Dodd-Frank, or other GOP pipe dreams) is dead for the next four years. However, we have no idea how the House will react to that. Will they simply continue voting for repeal once a day and twice on Sundays? Or will they move, over the next six months or so, to accepting that Obamacare is really going to happen, and cooperating in improving it?

Cooperation doesn’t even mean that they have to give up their opposition, to tell the truth. It just means that they would be open to old fashioned horse trading, in which they agree (for example) to allow minor legislative fixes through that would allow the law to be implemented more smoothly, in exchange for Democratic agreement with similarly sized GOP priorities. Granted, part of the problem has been that Republicans just don’t have a lot of realistic legislative goals beyond keeping taxes low for upper-income filers. Still, they do have some (don’t they?).

I mean, a well-functioning Republican Party might well oppose the tanning tax, and be willing to support some alternative to raise the revenues needed for the ACA. But to do so, they would have to accept that Obamacare can actually be improved (and therefore is not pure evil), and that government programs can be paid for with taxes, and therefore a party should choose the taxes it thinks best (as opposed to rejecting the whole concept of budgeting).

I don’t know; there do seem to be some incentives for the GOP to accept normal legislative behavior, but there are plenty of incentives for them to stick with the crazy that (they believe) got ‘em there in the first place. I guess we’ll have to wait to see what happens.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.
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