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Given the direction of the justices’ interlocution, it almost would have to be necessarily have been an intentional fakeout for some part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“Obamacare’) not to be declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer. It’s never over until the decision actually gets announced by the Court, so in the opinion shopping that will ensue it’s possible that it could stand. But going with the smart money that foresees, at the very least, the excising of the individual mandate, how will this forecasted result affect the political career of Sen. Mary Landrieu?
Louisiana’s only remaining statewide-elected Democrat made infamous by her “Louisiana Purchase” concerning the law, she provided the crucial Senate vote for the matter as a result of a provision slipped into it that would increase the Medicaid reimbursement Louisiana would receive over the next few years. It was a canny political move for her in a sense because she played hard-to-get on a bill she really wanted to vote for in the first place, eliciting a state benefit and a campaign point in her favor. (It also got her a jab as a “prostitute,” making her the original less stupid, less ideologically brain-dead version of a blathering idiot who didn’t get an apology for that remark.)
Since then, Landrieu has continued her liberal ways (as a quick perusal of her voting record shows), but all the while trying to inoculate herself from enough of the larger voting public realizing that her ideology runs counter to its majority’s beliefs through tactical statements and votes, such as in defending interests in increasing oil extraction. Her strategy is to accumulate enough of these non-liberal moments to publicize mostly them in a 2014 reelection campaign, throwing up enough of a fog to deflect sighting her true views.
But any Court reversal on Obamacare cripples this attempt. Tossing the whole thing makes her look idiotic, as somebody who cannot understand the Constitution and jettisons it in favor of love of big, unconstitutional government. That thereby moots any gain she got from the deal, because she can’t argue that it’s an even better deal since the state got the money anyway without having to put up with Obamacare. To this line of defense, opponents simply will observe that the point remains that the Court’s ruling reveals, in terms of constitutional knowledge, that she is a moron who thereby lacks integrity if she thinks it’s acceptable policy-maker behavior to support something unconstitutional in exchange for money.
Perhaps Landrieu has anticipated this, as she sent out a mailer extolling all of the things she defines as positive concerning outcomes of the law already implemented, such as increased coverage for various people in various ways. But the one thing she neglected, quite intentionally, to address in this is the added costs to people – which one of her colleagues, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, did recently – that demonstrates the enormous extra costs already heaped upon the public, with the promise of many more to come. Regarding these, what conservatives reminded the public from the start and what liberals denied has become more apparent as time has passed – only the most ignorant or the most ideologically-trapped can deny there are no cost savings under Obamacare but instead entails enormous additional costs attached to a system that will decrease the quality of care.
So Landrieu can try to ignore this inconvenient truth by pummeling the electorate with examples of presumed benefits blighted by complete overturning of the law with no mention of the additional taxpayer and ratepayer costs avoided, but her opponents will not let her off the hook. And it actually would be worse for her if only the mandate gets invalidated, because then it becomes a “zombie” whose costs rise even higher without the mandate to fund it forcibly.
Picture especially an effective Obamacare opponent such as Rep. Bill Cassidy, a medical doctor, pounding home again and again how Landrieu was unaware enough to vote for an unconstitutional law whose cost associated with partial implementation already has brought so many higher costs as to negate any putative benefits she tries to advance, that perhaps will do far more damage to an economy and government fiscal position already poisoned near the point of no return by debt, and who would be crass enough to claim her getting extra money for the state made all of this worthwhile. This issue will dominate completely the campaign and override any claims by her on other issues that she really is not against the Louisiana majority.
Landrieu already has enough trouble on the issues such as the debt question to make her 2014 reelection problematic. Anything but affirmation of the law will make her position untenable.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 10:15