Moderate Democrats Turning Against PPCACA’s Individual Mandate
Four Senators who just happen to be up for re-election next year are silently looking for alternatives to the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.
Politico notes that several moderate Democrats may pose a threat to the individual insurance mandate in the Affordable Care Act:
A handful of moderate Senate Democrats are looking for ways to roll back the highly contentious individual mandate — the pillar of President Barack Obama’s health care law — a sign that red-state senators are prepared to assert their independence ahead of the 2012 elections.
They haven’t decided whether to propose legislation, but any effort by moderate Democrats that takes aim at the individual mandate could embarrass Obama and embolden Republicans who are still maneuvering to take down the health care law.
And it’s not just health care. The senators are prepared to break with the White House on a wide range of issues: embracing deeper spending cuts, scaling back business regulations and overhauling environmental rules. The moderates most likely to buck their party include Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana — all of whom are up for reelection in 2012 and represent states Obama lost in 2008.
The goal is to lay down a record of bipartisan compromises with Republicans, but it could also put Obama at odds with key centrists, right at the moment the president himself is looking to forge a more centrist path.
And their efforts could put Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) at a potential disadvantage on key votes. The Senate leader has to protect 23 Democratic seats next year, giving moderates and swing-state Democrats plenty of leeway to prove their independence, but he also has to worry about keeping a unified front for the party ahead of the presidential election. With only 53 Democrats leading the thin Senate majority, if three or four break away on any key issue, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could in some cases claim a simple majority.
Of course, it’s no coincidence that Manchin, McCaskill, Nelson, and Tester would possibly be breaking with their party not only on health care, but also on other issue. Not only are all four up for re-election in 2012, but all four come from states that John McCain won in 2008. Given that the electoral landscape for a Democrat in 2012 in these states isn’t likely to be all that better than it was in 2010, a move to the right on their part is entirely logical, and smart politics. Moreover, the rulings from Judge Hudson in Virginia and Judge Vinson in Florida seem to have given at least some political momentum to the anti-ObamaCare forces.
At the same time, I’m not sure that any of these moves are going to help people like Manchin, McCaskill, Nelson, and Tester electorally. As Greg Sargent notes, their efforts are likely to help undermine the Affordable Care Act, but not enough that it won’t be an issue for their opponent to exploit in 2012. Moreover., it’s unlikely that any of these efforts will actually amount to anything until two things have happened. First, the 2012 elections, and, second, the Supreme Court ruling on the Constitutionality of the individual mandate. The first event, of course, is still 21 months away. The second is unlikely to happen before the end of the Supreme Court’s 2012-2013 term. Until then, this is all political jockeying.