Jindal's career enhanced, Landrieu's ended, by events
The end of June produced the two biggest days in Sen. Mary Landrieu’s political life. What transpired ends her political career even as it enhances Gov. Bobby Jindal’s.
Last Thursday the U.S. Supreme Court made known its decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has little to do with the first part of its name and relevant to the second part is a total lie. Landrieu had cast the decisive vote that allowed it to continue to become law, but not before she proudly proclaimed that part of it contained, in essence, extra money for Louisiana to pay its Medicaid bills. Just before the convoluted procedures played out that foisted the law into being enacted, it was estimated this additional benefit would bring an extra $100 million a year in each of 2011 and 2012 to the state.
But, wonder of wonders, the extremely complicated language in the bill that tried to isolate Louisiana as the only state to benefit backfired, to the American taxpayers’ detriment but the state’s benefit. Instead of a two-year fix, it became a multi-year bonus at a much higher level. Louisiana stood in line to get as much as $700 million in those years, and as much as $3.6 billion in the years to follow. When Republicans took control of the House in 2011, they got through a supposed fix that still left the state $1.6 billion to the good through 2014.
In a word, the Louisiana public loathes the law and any GOP challenger to Landrieu easily could wrap that around her neck. Except that the Supreme Court may have bailed her out if it had ruled that the law’s individual mandate – the first instance ever of a judicially-blessed tax on behavior rather than economic activity – was unconstitutional while preserving the rest of the law. Then Landrieu could have argued she got the state a great deal, over a billion bucks in extra funds without having to endure what the majority detested.
However, the Court failed to remove the albatross around her neck by upholding the mandate as a tax even as it made unenforceable the forced expansion of Medicaid eligible recipients that could have really jacked up the state’s expenses in implementation. Yet at least she still had the “Louisiana Purchase” funding coming …
… until last Friday when Congress passed as part of a massive bill a provision that stripped the fix money yet unspent. So while the state did get some of that benefit, Landrieu has diminished considerably the counterweight she could use to offset the ill-will her decisive vote created. Further, any opponent of hers can argue it would have been far worse had Jindal decided not to resist expanding Medicaid eligibility, costing the state hundreds of millions of more dollars.
Without the Court’s stripping of federal coercive methods to expand, Jindal and other resisting governors could only delay and not stop the full impact of the law. Now given the ability to do so with impunity, Jindal in practical terms can cushion the blow from the retracted extra funding and in symbolic terms can strike a blow against the flawed law, enhancing his political prospects perhaps even in the near term.
Landrieu gets left with a different fate. She cannot, nor will her opponents let her, escape from her crucial role in passing legislation found repellent by a majority in Louisiana a year before the decision. At the time she did it, that vote appeared certainly to put her on shaky reelection ground. Now that this has come to pass and in the way it happened, that ground seems to have fallen out from under her.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 00:00