Clinton Urges Lawmakers to Focus on “˜Revising’ instead of ‘Defunding’ Obamacare

Former President Bill Clinton’s major call to action was for Congress to fix the issues he identified in the law. Will they?

Former President Bill Clinton speaks about health care at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. Clinton's speech comes with the Affordable Healthcare Act in final countdown mode, just a few weeks before the scheduled Oct. 1 launch of online health insurance markets in the states.
National Journal
Sept. 4, 2013, 1:57 p.m.

In a speech that fell right smack in the middle of the na­tion’s de­bate on Syr­ia, former Pres­id­ent Bill Clin­ton urged Con­gress to re­vise a num­ber of is­sues he has with the Af­ford­able Care Act in­stead of fo­cus­ing on de­fund­ing it.

The former chief ex­ec­ut­ive—who Pres­id­ent Obama jok­ingly called “the Sec­ret­ary of Ex­plain­ing Stuff” last year—de­livered the Wed­nes­day morn­ing ad­dress from his pres­id­en­tial lib­rary in Little Rock, Ark. His speech came less than a month be­fore one of the biggest com­pon­ents of the law—the ex­change mar­kets—are set to open for en­roll­ment Oct. 1.

Clin­ton said he agreed to join the White House’s cheer­lead­ing ef­forts be­cause he was shocked by the lack of know­ledge and un­der­stand­ing of the new law. But his re­marks were not lim­ited to ad­dress­ing the con­cerns of crit­ics.

“The be­ne­fits of re­form can’t be fully real­ized, and prob­lems cer­tainly can’t be solved, un­less both the sup­port­ers and the op­pon­ents of the ori­gin­al le­gis­la­tion work to­geth­er to im­ple­ment it and ad­dress the is­sues that arise whenev­er you have a sys­tem this com­plic­ated, Clin­ton said.

He called on Con­gress to tackle prob­lem areas of the law that need solv­ing. Among them, he lis­ted a gap in small-busi­ness tax cred­its, which do not cov­er all em­ploy­ees or all firms. He said it should be ex­pan­ded.

An­oth­er is­sue is the gap in sub­sidies for de­pend­ents. Work­ers who re­ceive em­ploy­er cov­er­age are in­eligible for tax sub­sidies in the ex­change.  Some em­ploy­ers don’t cov­er fam­il­ies and those fam­il­ies’ in­ab­il­ity to re­ceive sub­sidies, which make the ex­change af­ford­able, is an “un­in­ten­ded con­sequence” of the law, Clin­ton said.

His con­cerns are real—but the chance that any­thing gets done about them is slim. Patrick Griffin, as­so­ci­ate dir­ect­or of Amer­ic­an Uni­versity’s Cen­ter for Con­gres­sion­al and Pres­id­en­tial Stud­ies, served as Clin­ton’s dir­ect­or of con­gres­sion­al af­fairs dur­ing his first term. He said the “De­fund Obama­care” move­ment poses a “great di­ver­sion” that will un­der­mine the ef­fort to im­prove the law.

“There are sub­stant­ive con­cerns that Clin­ton was speak­ing to that ought to be ad­dressed,” Griffin said. “Wheth­er they’ll get a fair ex­am­in­a­tion un­der the cur­rent cir­cum­stances is hard to ima­gine giv­en the cur­rent ef­fort fo­cus­ing on de­fund­ing it en­tirely.”

Some con­ser­vat­ives said they were un­moved by Clin­ton’s re­marks. Chris Jac­obs, seni­or policy ana­lyst at the Her­it­age Found­a­tion—a sup­port­er of the De­fund Obama­care ini­ti­at­ive—said the prob­lems Clin­ton high­lighted would re­quire ex­pens­ive solu­tions.

“There’s the philo­soph­ic­al con­cern that we want the law re­pealed al­to­geth­er,” Jac­obs said. “But the prac­tic­al con­cern is that he has no way to pay for these solu­tions. It will likely mean more tax in­creases.”

Which Jac­obs said brings them back to square one: the philo­soph­ic­al con­cern that the tax­pay­er shouldn’t be foot­ing the bill for big gov­ern­ment ini­ti­at­ives.

Griffin said he thinks the de­fund ef­forts are “just as un­real­ist­ic” as the chances of bring­ing re­form meas­ures to the floor.

“I think [Clin­ton] presen­ted an as­pir­a­tion­al goal,” he said, “but the de­bate has got a ways to go.”

Both parties could be at fault if the pro­posed re­forms don’t see day­light. Don Stew­art, a spokes­man for Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, said he doesn’t think re­vi­sions to the Af­ford­able Care Act are likely to be brought up in the Sen­ate.

“I haven’t heard Sen­at­or [Harry] Re­id say since the bill passed that he’d bring up any changes to the bill,” Stew­art said.

Re­id’s of­fice could not be reached for com­ment.

Wheth­er Clin­ton’s call to ac­tion sways this fall’s Con­gres­sion­al agenda re­mains to be seen when both houses re­turn from sum­mer re­cess Monday.

What We're Following See More »
LOWER COURT HAD INVALIDATED LIFE SENTENCE
SCOTUS Will Hear DC Sniper Case
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider Virginia’s plea to reinstate the life-without-parole sentence of a man who as a teenager participated in sniper shootings that terrorized the Washington, D.C., region in 2002. The justices said they will take up the state’s appeal in the case of Lee Boyd Malvo, who was 17 when he and John Allen Muhammad fatally shot 10 people in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. Malvo was sentenced to life-without-parole terms in Virginia and in Maryland, and Muhammad was sentenced to death and was executed in 2009. Malvo was sentenced to four life terms for crimes he committed in Virginia. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled last year that while Malvo’s life-without-parole sentences were legal when they were imposed."

Source:
PROSECUTORS, DOT ARE INVOLVED
U.S. Grand Jury Seeks info on How 737 MAX Is Made
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Federal prosecutors and Department of Transportation officials are scrutinizing the development of Boeing Co.’s 737 MAX jetliners, according to people familiar with the matter, unusual inquiries that come amid probes of regulators’ safety approvals of the new plane. A grand jury in Washington, D.C., issued a broad subpoena dated March 11 to at least one person involved in the 737 MAX’s development, seeking related documents, including correspondence, emails and other messages."

Source:
HAS NOT ATTENDED HIGH-LEVEL MEETINGS OF LATE
MBS Stripped of Some Powers
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The heir to the Saudi throne has not attended a series of high-profile ministerial and diplomatic meetings in Saudi Arabia over the last fortnight and is alleged to have been stripped of some of his financial and economic authority, the Guardian has been told. The move to restrict, if only temporarily, the responsibilities of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is understood to have been revealed to a group of senior ministers earlier last week by his father, King Salman."

Source:
TURKISH MAN BEING SOUGHT
Mass Shooting in Dutch City of Utrecht
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS
AUTHORIZED TO UNLOCK PHONES
Feds Raided Broidy's Offices Last Year
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Federal authorities raided the office of Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy last summer, seeking records related to his dealings with foreign officials and Trump administration associates, according to a sealed search warrant obtained by ProPublica. Agents were authorized to use the megadonor’s hands and face to unlock any phones that required fingerprint or facial scans."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login