The rise of Donald Trump has many of his GOP rivals asking: How can we steal away the source of his apparent appeal to GOP primary voters? This week, we’re getting one answer to that question from Scott Walker, who seems to have decided that Trump’s surge is rooted partly in those voters’ frustration with the failure of GOP leaders to stop Obama.
To appeal to those voters, Walker was slated to take a page from Ted Cruz’s manual of demagoguery and distortions, arguing in a speech Tuesday that Washington Republicans let the country down by failing to live up to their promise to repeal Obamacare — and that he would be willing to take on GOP leaders over their betrayal. Politico reports:
“In a speech set to deliver in Minnesota on Tuesday, Walker will take on the GOP’s leaders in Congress.
‘Republican leaders in Washington told us during the campaign last year that we needed a Republican Senate to repeal Obamacare,’ the Wisconsin governor will say, according to excerpts of his remarks released by the campaign. ‘Well, Republicans have been in charge of both houses of Congress since January and there still isn’t a bill on the president’s desk to repeal Obamacare.’
Walker will say that he’s had to take on the establishment in his party before and that he told GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin, ‘It was put up or shut up time. If we didn’t do what we said we’d do, the voters would have every right to throw us out.’”
Congressional Republicans, of course, have voted dozens of times to repeal Obamacare. The fact that Republicans now control both houses of Congress doesn’t change the underlying reality that there aren’t enough GOP Senators to overcome a Dem filibuster of repeal, let alone enough Congressional Republicans to override an Obama veto. Perhaps Walker will now tell us what, specifically, he thinks they should have done differently.
But Walker may have decided that blaming the GOP establishment for going all squishy in the quest to roll back the Obama agenda is the way to capture some of the energy Trump has unleashed. In a radio interview earlier this week, Walker suggested that the failure to vote this year to repeal Obamacare and the failure to roll back Obama’s executive actions on deportation (which House Republicans also voted to roll back, but never mind) help explain Trump’s (and Ben Carson’s) rise. “This is where the frustration is,” Walker said. “This is why non-elected candidates are surging in the polls.”
Meanwhile, in the speech, Walker is also set to roll out his own plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. The plan would scrap the Medicaid expansion and cap federal payments to states for some parts of Medicaid. It would repeal the Obamacare subsidies that help lower-income people get coverage, but that would be replaced with a new subsidy scheme that is based on age, rather than income. It would roll back the protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but that would be replaced with funding to the states for those people.
While the plan is probably significantly less generous in terms of its coverage expansion than Obamacare is, Philip Klein explains in the Washington Examiner that it is actually somewhat less of a conservative free-market alternative than the approach favored by some of his rivals, because it continues to spend some government money to cover people. This, Klein argues, “reveals his judgment is that to be politically viable, a replacement has to offer a lifeline to Obamacare’s beneficiaries and cannot simply wipe away the law and proceed as if it never existed.”
And so, while Walker is blustering about how squishy GOP leaders are to blame for failing to repeal Obamacare, he also seems to be quietly acknowledging that the law is increasingly entrenched and just might be helping a lot of people.
Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant.