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A Court Case and a New Congress: What's Next for Obamacare?

The stakes are high for new open enrollment period as the Supreme Court agrees to hear another challenge to the law.
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The newest round of open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act begins in less than a week, just as the law comes under a new threat with the Supreme Court’s decision that it will hear a new challenge questioning its government subsidies. The case raises the stakes for too; the last thing the Obama administration needs is a repeat of last year’s embarrassing technical glitches. On the flip side, the lawsuit could have an important political effect: It could give GOP leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner leeway to avoid dealing with the issue of health care right away. By having a court case to point to, Republicans could delay the health care showdown between their party and the White House – and even one within the GOP itself.

The stakes are high, especially after Democratic losses

Congressional midterm losses aside -- when it comes to health care, Democrats might be even more stung by the party’s big losses in governors’ mansions and state legislatures last Tuesday. Democrats were counting on a few more gubernatorial wins, which would have boosted the number of states expanding Medicaid or starting state exchanges. The more folks who are insured through ACA, the more entrenched the law becomes – which in turn makes it harder to dismantle. In theory, public pressure isn’t supposed to have an impact on Supreme Court decisions, but the difference between a smooth rollout and a bad one in the law’s second open enrollment period certainly impacts how difficult it would be to gut the law in the future.

Conservatives rooting for a tax increase?

The Supreme Court has two challenges here: 1) ruling that the law didn’t intend to give tax credits to states with federally run marketplaces when the authors (i.e., Congress) say they did; and 2) potentially raising Americans’ health-care premiums by TAKING AWAY tax credits. Indeed, it’s a bit striking that many conservatives are rooting for an outcome where many Americans have to pay MORE for health-care than they currently do. And that could put pressure on GOP lawmakers and governors to make some sort of fix. “As the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt explains it, a SCOTUS ruling gutting the subsidies could easily be rendered ‘moot’ in one of two ways: Either Congress fixes the law, or governors in those states set up state exchanges to keep the subsidies flowing to their constituents,” per the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent.

Wanna Get Away?

After his party’s stinging midterm defeat last week, President Obama finds himself on a weeklong trip overseas -- first in Beijing at APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, then later to Burma and Australia. USA Today covers his first day in Beijing. “President Obama delivered a speech at an economic summit in Beijing on Monday, saying he wants the United States and China to strengthen ties that could lead to more jobs and for China to ‘do well.’ As part of those efforts, the president announced a new visa agreement plan with China's government. Obama said Chinese student visas will be extended to five years, and business and tourist visas to 10 years. The move will also apply to U.S. citizens in China. Previously, visas were granted on a year-at-a-time basis.”

Obama: “It’s not enough to build the better mousetrap"

In an interview with CBS before he departed to Asia, President Obama acknowledged that -- in his final two years in office -- he and his administration need to do a better job of selling their policies. “When you start governing, there is a tendency sometimes for me to start thinking, ‘As long as I get the policy right then that's what should matter.’… And I think that one thing that I do need to constantly remind myself and my team are is it's not enough just to build the better mousetrap. People don't automatically come beating to your door. We've got to sell it, we've got to reach out to the other side and where possible persuade.”

Not backing away from executive action on immigration

The president also reiterated in the same interview that he will announce executive action on immigration -- and that he prefers Congress to “supersede” that action with an actual law. “What I am saying to [members of Congress] actually their time hasn't run out. I am going to do what I can do through executive action. It's not going to be everything that needs to get done. And it will take time to put that in place. And in the interim, the minute they pass a bill that addresses the problems with immigration reform, I will sign it and it supersedes whatever actions I take. And I'm encouraging them to do so.”

Some good news for Obama and the Democrats

Despite a rough week for Democrats last week, there was some good news for them to tout. First, there was the announced 214,000 jobs created in October, plus the unemployment rate falling to 5.8%. Folks, after revisions, we’ve had NINE-straight months of 200,000-plus jobs created each month. Then there was the news of the two Americans freed from North Korea. “[Kenneth] Bae and Matthew Miller, another American who had been held captive in North Korea, landed Saturday night at a Washington state military base after a top U.S. intelligence official secured their release.” Finally, we learned of the possibility that ISIS’ leader was wounded in a U.S.-led airstrike. The AP: “Iraqi officials said Sunday that the head of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was wounded in an airstrike in western Anbar province. Pentagon officials said they had no immediate information on such an attack or on the militant leader being injured."

George W. Bush on “TODAY”

Here’s what the former president had to say about his brother Jeb, in an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. “I think in his soul, he knows he can do the job. No matter who says he should run, he knows he's going to make up his mind based upon what he thinks is right for his family.” (The 43rd president also said he never asked his own father if he should run for president.) On Sunday, the elder Bush put his brother’s chances of running at “50-50.”

Scott Walker: GOP needs to the look to governors in ’16.

Wonder if he has anyone in mind? On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker -- who won his third race in the state in the past four years -- certainly sounded like someone who’s thinking about a White House bid, even against fellow Wisconsinite Paul Ryan. His argument: The GOP needs to turn to the states, not to Washington. “I do think if we're going to beat Hillary Clinton in this next election, we've got to have a message that says, ‘Hillary Clinton is all about Washington.’ I think in many ways, she was the big loser on Tuesday because she embodies everything that's wrong with Washington.” More Walker: “We offer a fresh approach. Any of us, now 31 governors across the country have the executive experience from outside of Washington to provide a much better alternative to the old, tired, top-down approach you see out of Washington D.C. We need something fresh, organic, from the bottom up. And that's what you get in the states.”

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