Pretty much as expected by conservatives, Obamacare has remained unpopular with the public. It's under attack in the courts. And now, vulnerable Senate Democrats are running for the hills. ABC News reports:
"We're looking at everything humanly possible. I've always had a concern and a problem with the mandate, that we were forcing it, basically saying by the law of the land you have to buy the product," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, told ABC News today. "But on the other hand, I know that's been the linchpin. I'm looking for flexibility any way I can." Manchin is one of the moderate Democrats trying to figure out how to repeal the individual mandate. While talks are still in the early stages, Manchin hopes the push will take shape sooner rather than later. Joining him in these efforts could be a handful of other Democrats who are also up for reelection in 2012: Nebraska's Ben Nelson, Missouri's Claire McCaskill, and Montana's Jon Tester.
You can understand why liberals might be starting to panic. So earnest Obamacare supporters are rushing in. [Journolist founder] Ezra Klein offers his contribution: "Replacing the individual mandate wouldn't be particularly hard. All we need is another policy that does the same thing -- specifically, discourages free-riders who don't want to buy insurance until after they get sick and thus leave the rest of us paying for them. The danger is not that the law does get changed, but that it doesn't
. That the GOP won't let it thrive and the Democrats won't let it die and so it just limps along."
Democrats are running from Obamacare Their willingness to push for a major revision, one vehemently opposed by the White House, of the "historic legislation" is not a helpful sign for the saleability of the plan in the 2012 election. As for the politics, Ezra has missed a key stumbling block: House Republicans and more than 40 Senate Republicans will not vote for an individual mandate-lite
, if you will. They want to repeal Obamacare outright or defund it. Remember, the Republicans are running and governing on repeal and replace. In other words, Obamacare can't be fixed in their eyes because the entire premise of the legislation and the cost it entails are unsustainable. And the president is opposed to it too. In other words, virtually everyone save the nervous Senate Democrats is opposed to the idea of fiddling with the individual mandate
Eventually the choice for red-state Democrats will be: Defend Obamacare as is or vote to repeal it. In the realm of electoral politics this is a "heads I win, tails you lose" proposition for the Republicans.