Morning Examiner: Obamacare is on the table

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, opened up another front in the fiscal cliff negotiations Wednesday when The Cincinnati Enquirer published an op-ed by him calling for Obamacare to be included in debt deal talks. From Boehner’s op-ed:

The president’s health care law adds a massive, expensive, unworkable government program at a time when our national debt already exceeds the size of our country’s entire economy. We can’t afford it, and we can’t afford to leave it intact. That’s why I’ve been clear that the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation’s massive debt challenge.

A White House aide later told The Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein that Obama “would oppose involving the Affordable Care Act in the negotiations taking place to stave off the so-called fiscal cliff.” But Stein also added, “Another Senate Democratic aide did concede that some changes to the Affordable Care Act could be made as part of a grand-bargain deal that would replace the expiring Bush-era tax cuts and the $1 trillion in spending cuts included in the sequester. But those changes would not alter the purpose and reach of the law ‘in any meaningful way.’”

This mirrors what The Washington Examiner has heard from House Republican sources as well. Republicans acknowledge that Obama would never alter the fundamental architecture of Obamacare, but they do believe he would agree to lower health insurance subsidy spending in exchange for higher revenues. Remember, the original Senate version of Obamacare passed out of the Finance committee included less generous health insurance exchange subsidies. Republicans think they can get Obama to go back to those levels of Obamacare spending.

But will those cuts, if Obama does agree to them, be enough to mollify the Republican base? Right now it looks like Boehner is willing to agree to higher revenues if Obama agrees to slightly lower levels of Social Security, Medicare, and Obamacare spending. Obama will tell his base no actual benefits have been cut and that entitlements have not been changed “in any meaningful way.” Boehner will tell his base that he has cut spending while forcing real and fundamental entitlement reform.

Both leaders have tough sales jobs ahead of them.

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