WASHINGTON – With the implementation of Obamacare turning into a fiasco, the tables have turned suddenly on the administration, offering Republicans in Congress political advantage, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist told WND in an interview.
“There is no longer one single approach for Republicans in Congress to win on Obamacare,” Norquist said.
“Every failure of Obamacare opens a new avenue of attack,” he said. “The vulnerable Democrats of 2014 will now come begging for cover. Republicans can agree to those ‘fixes’ that move toward greater freedom and say no to ‘fixes’ that protect Obamacare at the expense of taxpayers.”
Instead of Republicans alone wanting to defund Obamacare, Norquist argued, the pressure in Congress to delay or change the law is now coming from Democrats.
Many Democrats, recognizing that millions of Americans are losing their health care plans despite Obama’s promise, fear a voter backlash in the 2014 mid-term elections.
“When both teams in Congress effectively have a veto, it’s a legislative stalemate,” Norquist argued, “and the party that needs to get something done is at a disadvantage.”
Norquist said the Republicans in the House can now “suddenly get changes in Obamacare by sitting tight” and waiting “for the Democrats to come begging to postpone or delay” it.
“The Republicans can agree, but only after the Democrats make concessions they otherwise never would have made,” Norquist said.
Norquist, president and founder of Americans for Tax Reform, explained Congress today is like an evenly matched Japanese Sumo wrestling contest in which the Democrats control the Senate and the Republicans control the House. Neither party has sufficient weight to determine the outcome of legislation without the cooperation of the other.
The Republican House can block any legislative initiative Obama and the Democrats in the Senate want to enact, and the Democratic-controlled Senate can refuse to vote on any bill the House passes.
Norquist believes the political damage done to Obama and the Democrats in Congress by the failure of the Obamacare implementation opens up a new chapter in the Sumo wrestling contest in Congress.
The battle is between Democrats who want to raise taxes to increase entitlement spending and Republicans who want to enact fundamental reforms in entitlement programs to cut government spending.
“The tea party handed Republicans a tactical advantage by insisting the United States needs not only to hold the line with ‘no new tax increases,’ but also to force a reduction in spending,” Norquist explained. “Because of the tea party, we now have the sequester in place, limiting government spending for a decade.”
Obama’s first tactical error was to sign the sequester, Norquist argued. His second error was to allow 85 percent of the Bush tax cuts to become permanent. In making these errors, Obama gave up much of his power.
“In 2011, the sequester was a cap on spending that saves $2.5 trillion in spending over the next decade,” Norquist pointed out. “Obama believed the sequester was a trick, believing pro-Pentagon Republicans would eventually abandon the sequester cuts to demand increased spending on defense. Obama really believed that agreeing to the sequester would eventually lead to a tax increase as Republicans sought to increase defense spending.”
Now, with the sequester in place, Norquist argues, the Democrats feel they are “in a choke collar” on spending.
The second big mistake, from Obama’s standpoint, was to agree to make 85 percent of the Bush tax cuts permanent.
“Obama did take back 15 percent of the Bush tax cuts. He won that much. But the price was to give away his ability to threaten a tax hike – simply by refusing to extend the temporary tax cuts. What were temporary and therefore vulnerable tax cuts for 12 years are now permanent.”
Gift from the heavens
Norquist fast-forwarded to today.
“Now we have a gift from the heavens in that the Obamacare implementation involves a website that does not work and millions of Americans realizing they will lose their current insurance, despite Obama promises to the contrary,” he said.
Norquist also credits Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., for offering to loosen the choke collar on current spending, but only in return for significant long-term cuts achieved thorough entitlement reform. Republicans would trade off some sum, perhaps $20 billion in current spending increases, for entitlement reform, resulting in long-term spending cuts in the range of $2.5 trillion.
Before Ryan and the sequester, the old deal available in Congress was to raise taxes, as demanded by Democrats, in exchange for promises of future spending reductions.
“The problem here always was that once you walk down that road – as in 1982 and 1990 – the tax increases were real and permanent, while the spending cuts never materialized,” Norquist pointed out.
“Ryan’s innovation was to change the old deal into a new formulation in which Republicans are willing to reduce the sequester choke-hold only in exchange for long-term massive reforms in entitlement programs, worth in dollars many times the amount in reductions in entitlement programs than is conceded in dollars in increased spending,” he said.
The Republican tactical advantage right now, Norquist argued, is that they can sit tight on the sequester for the next 10 years and wait for the Democrats to come wanting increased spending.
“So, for the next decade, Republicans can say we will reduce the sequester choke hold, but only in exchange for trillions of dollars in long-term entitlement reform,” Norquist stressed.
“Before Ryan, all the fiscal deals in Congress required a concession by Republicans on tax increases,” he said. “Ryan changed the world because Democrats know that if a Republican president is voted into office in 2016 or 2020, Congress will pass the Ryan plan calling for lowering tax rates with a growth-oriented tax reform program designed to increase tax revenues combined with long-term entitlement program reforms designed to reduce government spending.”
Now, with the sequester pushed by the tea party in place and failure of the Obamacare implementation an obvious problem for the Democrats, the Republicans in Congress can suddenly sit back and wait for the Democrats to push new legislation to delay or otherwise change Obamacare.
“Before the fiasco of the Obamacare administration, the Republicans wanted to prevent or delay Obamacare implementation because Republicans were worried Obamacare might be a huge success with the American public,” Norquist said. “Now that we know the Obamacare administration has been a huge embarrassment to Democrats, the pressure for delaying or changing Obamacare has shifted to the Democrats.”
The Sumo-wrestling calculation of power in Congress has changed fundamentally with the failure of Obamacare, Norquist concludes.
“Now the Democrats are faced with coming uphill with the sun in their eyes,” he pointed out. “All the Democrats can ask for today is poking a hole in the sequester and delaying or changing Obamacare.”
So, when the continuing resolution and debt ceiling issues return to Congress early next year, Norquist believes the Republicans have a new-found advantage that can be pressed by waiting until the Democrats push for delaying or reforming Obamacare.
This, Norquist believes, positions the Republicans in Congress to demand concessions from the Democrats, who need relief from Obamacare for political reasons.
Norquist emphasized that the changes Republicans agree to make on Obamacare “need now to be free-market solutions.”
“We now know it is not true that once Obamacare was in place, we would never get rid of it – a concern Sen. Ted Cruz argued would happen,” he said.
Norquist said Democrats face the electoral liability if Obamacare remains in place in 2014.
“This is something we did not know for sure would happen until the Obamacare implementation began,” he said.
With their new leverage, Republicans “can sit tight with the sequester in place and 85 percent of the Bush tax cuts made permanent,” he said, ‘and, if played right, we no longer have to vote to repeal, defund, or delay Obamacare – a strategy sure to fail with Obama holding a presidential veto.”
“When the vulnerable Democrats tell us what their problem is with Obamacare, we can demand market-oriented solutions to Obamacare as the price of ‘solving their problem’ – knowing we can keep the government going by passing a new continuing resolution with the sequester unchanged,” he said.
“That’s winning because spending is capped and the Democrats get no more money to spend.”
As Obamacare continues to come apart, Republicans in Congress are going to have opportunities to introduce market-oriented reforms Norquist believes the American people will demand.
“Suddenly, Obama might sign a Democratic Party-generated bill to change or delay Obamacare just like he signed the sequester in 2011,” Norquist concluded. “That’s my point – the table on Obamacare has now turned, and it’s the Democrats in Congress who are now going to push for changes.”