The Hill columnist Brent Budowsky declares “Karl Rove Surrenders to Obamacare“:
…now comes Rove, on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal and the other places he inhabits, telling Republicans (correctly) that their pledge to repeal ObamaCare is a bad and politically stupid idea. Rove’s acknowledges (correctly) that it will not be repealed, and warns Republicans (correctly) they could pay a heavy price with voters if the Supreme Court overturns ObamaCare and Republicans have to face endless news stories about the bad things that happen to Americans if ObamaCare is overturned or repealed and Republicans have nothing to offer instead (which they don’t) [Brent Budowsky, “Karl Rove Surrenders to Obamacare,” The Hill, 2015.05.08].
Saying Rove has “surrendered” goes a little too far. Rove does acknowledge that their King v. Burwell lawsuit to strip taxpayers in states like South Dakota of the ACA subsidy for health insurance could backfire politically if the Supreme Court rules in the selfish plaintiffs’ favor and Republicans aren’t ready with a replacement plan:
If the Supreme Court holds in King v. Burwell that the Affordable Care Act—also known as ObamaCare—does not allow subsidies for health coverage to flow through federal insurance exchanges, Republicans better be ready to say what to do next. Under such a decision, roughly eight million Americans in three dozen states would lose subsidies worth thousands of dollars. Many would suddenly find it impossible to pay for the insurance plan they’re on now.
President Barack Obama will then accuse conservative justices of overreaching and demand that the GOP Congress immediately extend subsidies to every state. His message will be politically potent, as it will turn the words of Republicans in 2013 back on them: “If you like your plan,” Republicans said, “you should be able to keep your plan.” Hillary Clinton will join in depicting Republicans as heartless brutes who would let people die for lack of health insurance rather than fix Mr. Obama’s law [Karl Rove, “The GOP’s Health-Care Reckoning,” Wall Street Journal via Rove, 2015.05.07].
With this political argument, Rove grants that the Affordable Care Act enjoys enough popularity that repealing it would damage Republicans. He acknowledges that efforts to repeal the ACA, like that embedded in the budget resolution of which Senator Mike Rounds is so proud, will right now only “chew up valuable time and give the president a veto opportunity he relishes.”
But Rove is not “surrendering.” He’s simply warning Senators Rounds, Thune, and other repeal-bleating Republicans that such empty words won’t save them from the pitchforks South Dakotans will break out if the Supreme Court takes away the premium tax credit.
Then again, maybe even Rove is over-worried. Maybe the Republicans can still win the ACA perception war by pointing out that two-thirds of taxpayers (at least those filing via H&R Block) ended up paying back some of the premium tax credit, cutting their refunds by an average of 33%. Hmmm… are you better off getting a bigger tax refund, or getting a bigger break on your health insurance throughout the year, then paying the difference from the extra money you have coming from the IRS?