Vulnerable Senate Dems plan Obamacare tweaks

Vulnerable Senate Democrats plan to introduce a bill as early as today that would alter some of the mandates in Obamacare and delay others, according to the Wall Street Journal:

Among the proposals likely to be included is one backed by Messrs. Begich and Warner offering a new kind of insurance plan, a "copper" plan featuring lower premiums and higher out-of-pocket costs than the "bronze," "silver" and "gold" options on the government-run health-care exchanges.

Lawmakers also would like to make health care more affordable for small businesses by expanding certain tax credits and making them available for longer. And Mr. Warner said on Fox News earlier this week that he favors enabling the sale of health insurance across state lines, an idea that has garnered interest among House Republicans as well. Other bills are expected to be introduced, with an emphasis on changes that don't undercut the law's foundations, aides said.

It is unclear if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) would bring any of the bills to the floor. One worry is that devoting Senate debate to the health-care changes would return attention to the law's glitches, rather than refocusing attention on Democrats' core issues, Democratic aides said. So far the Senate hasn't voted on any of the three bills the House passed with bipartisan support earlier this month to make modest changes to the health law.

And even if any of the measures were brought to the floor,Republicans might balk at helping Democrats improve a law whose unpopularity is central to the GOP's midterm strategy. Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said Wednesday he would be in favor of making immediate fixes, but other Republicans expressed reservations. "These folks have voted for that bad piece of legislation [are] now having remorse," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.), who said his vote would depend on the legislation. Democrats "want to try to do something political to a very unpopular piece of legislation," he said.

Many Democrats in tight races this fall have made clear they are committed to keeping the health law but want to fix it, drawing a distinction with Republicans who want to scrap it entirely. "The law is very good; it has some very good parts to it," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat running for re-election in conservative-leaning Louisiana. "I do not believe it should be repealed—my opponents do."

This is a trap for Republicans. If they go ahead and help the Democrats by applying a bandaid to this gaping wound, it won't help consumers and would dispirit the base of the party. On the other hand, that's just what these Dems are counting on. By refusing to help "fix" Obamacare, they can run on the notion that Republicans don't want to make the law better because it benefits them politically if it remains a mess.

There's no reason for the GOP to alter what they've been doing. The mid terms will be a turnout election and anything that might keep their voters from going to the polls should be avoided. On the other hand, only those predisposed to think that a few minor tweaks could actually "fix" Obamacare would be influenced by the Democratic argument of GOP obstructionism. It's far better for Republicans to keep the pressure on vulnerable Democrats than help them make meaningless changes to a bad law.

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