First Read: Why Republicans Are Boxed In On Obamacare

by Mark Murray , Chuck Todd and Carrie Dann /  / Updated 
Image: Supreme Court To Issue Landmark Rulings On Obamacare, Same Sex Marriage
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 25: A sign is held up that reads "ACA Is Here To Stay" front of the US Supreme Court after ruling was announced in favor of the Affordable Care Act. June 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that the Affordabvle Care Act may provide nationwide tax subsidies to help poor and middle-class people buy health insurance. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)Mark Wilson / Getty Images

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First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Why Republicans are boxed in on health care

Yes, yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling wasn’t just a victory for President Obama -- it was a win for congressional Republicans and GOP governors, who no longer have to worry about the aftermath (or blame) of health-care subsidies going away in their states. But looking at the issue with a focus on 2016, Republicans also find themselves boxed in health care in other ways. On the one hand, 84% of Republicans want the law to either be totally eliminated or majorly overhauled, according to our most recent NBC/WSJ poll. On the other hand, after the second Supreme Court decision upholding the law, there really isn’t much the GOP can do about it -- even if Republicans take back the White House in 2017. Why? Think about it: Say Republicans control the White House and Congress in 2017, say Republicans are able to use reconciliation (and a favorable ruling from the Senate parliamentarian), and say they have actual legislation to replace the health-care law. Then what? That new GOP president would see his entire presidency defined by health care (just like the current president). He’d own the implementation and all of the problems associated with it (just like the current president); he’d own premiums going up, even though premiums usually go up (just like the current president); and he’d face an opposition unwilling to help him even one inch (just like the current president). Does all of that sound familiar?

Promising to repeal and replace Obamacare is a pledge that would be hard to keep

Bottom line: Republican presidential candidates promising to repeal and replace the health-care are making a pledge they probably can’t keep -- or if they try to, it’s one that could define (and ruin) their presidency. Given this and given yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, we think there’s an 85%-90% chance the foundation of Obama’s health-care law is here to stay. And that percentage goes up to 100% if Democrats win another presidential contest in 2016.

The conservative backlash at Chief Justice John Roberts

There’s a final observation to make about yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on Obama’s health-care law: It’s produced A LOT of conservative backlash at Chief Justice John Roberts. In fact, some of them want to turn Roberts into George W. Bush’s David Souter (though that comparison is stretched since Souter tended to side with the liberals on almost every case, not just one or two of them). Here was Scott Walker on Fox last night: “It’s precisely why we not only need a president who is going to repeal Obamacare outright, but also a president who, going forward, is going to make sure judicial appointments that are appointed on the Supreme Court and other federal positions are ones based on people that will truly uphold the Constitution and laws duly enacted under them.” Is this going to an issue that Republicans like Scott Walker use to hit Jeb Bush with -- “Hey, your brother gave us the turncoat John Roberts! And your father gave us David Souter!”

Can the GOP stop an Obama who’s on a roll?

We’ve pointed out that Obama has had quite a week -- on trade, health care, maybe gay marriage today. Conservative writer Byron York asks: How should Republicans try to stop a president on a roll? “I sent notes to several Republican operatives, some working on presidential campaigns and some unaffiliated. How do GOP candidates deal with a president on a winning streak? How does it affect the campaign? Does it give Clinton a stronger hand? The answers that came back showed a party struggling to figure out exactly how to deal with the Democrats' recent run.” Worth emphasizing again: Obama’s current approval rating in our NBC/WSJ poll is 48%; George W. Bush’s at this same point in time in his presidency was 29%.

Should schools and facilities named after Robert E. Lee go, too?

President Obama today delivers the eulogy in Charleston for Rev. Clementa Pinckney. And while we doubt that the president will use the eulogy to step into the debate over the Confederate flag, the New York Times’ David Brooks takes that debate on step further: Should all schools and facilities named after Robert E. Lee come down, too? “My own view is that we should preserve most Confederate memorials out of respect for the common soldiers. We should keep Lee’s name on institutions that reflect postwar service, like Washington and Lee University, where he was president,” Brooks writes. “But we should remove Lee’s name from most schools, roads and other institutions, where the name could be seen as acceptance of what he did and stood for during the war.” Will be fascinating to hear how prominent Virginia Democrats (Mark Warner, Tim Kaine and Terry McAuliffe) handle the Lee question. Meanwhile, here’s another question Democrats may face soon: With Hillary Clinton slated to attend tonight’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Virginia (after attending today’s funeral in Charleston), should the party feature Democratic dinners named after Jefferson and Jackson?

Pro-Rubio group to hit the airwaves -- on Iran

The Washington Post scoops that a pro-Marco Rubio non-profit (which doesn’t have to disclose its donations) is going up with a $1 million-plus advertising buy highlighting Rubio’s opposition to an Iran deal. A few interesting points here: One, this appears to be the first BIG ad buy of the 2016 presidential campaign. Two, it’s not coming from a Super PAC -- but from a non-profit that doesn’t have to disclose its donors. And three, it’s on foreign policy and Iran, not the economy or domestic concerns. (And certainly not on health care.) Of course, as our NBC/WSJ poll in April found, Republicans see foreign policy and national security as the biggest issue heading into 2016.

Trump is now radioactive with Latinos, and how would that reflect on the GOP if he makes that first debate?

By now, you’ve probably heard how Univision disassociated itself from Donald Trump’s Miss Universe pageant after Trump’s controversial comments on Mexicans. And now Trump is promising to sue Univision. But the episode underscores this important 2016 point: Trump is now radioactive among Latino Americans -- perhaps more so than Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has been. And how would that reflect on the GOP if he makes that first debate? As Politico writes, "He has virtually zero chance of winning the presidential nomination. But insiders worry that the loud-mouthed mogul is more than just a minor comedic nuisance on cable news; they fret that he’s a loose cannon whose rants about Mexicans and scorched-earth attacks on his rivals will damage the eventual nominee and hurt a party struggling to connect with women and minorities and desperate to win."

The Hillary emails

“The State Department said Thursday that it could not locate “all or part” of 15 e-mails provided last week to the House Select Committee on Benghazi by Sidney Blumenthal from his exchanges with then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton,” the Washington Post says. “The committee chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who has raised repeated questions about whether Clinton covered up her activities related to the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, called the State Department disclosure ‘significant and troubling.’

On “Meet the Press” this Sunday

NBC’s Chuck Todd will interview newly minted presidential candidate Bobby Jindal, as well as Lindsey Graham.

On the trail

Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Jim Webb are in Iowa… After her appearance at the funeral in Charleston, Hillary Clinton addresses the Virginia Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner… Martin O’Malley delivers a foreign-policy speech in DC… And Rick Santorum is in Denver, CO.

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