Political Animal


January 29, 2015 10:55 AM Sessions Formally Opposes Having an Attorney General

It was hardly a surprise when conservative firebrand Jeff Sessions of Alabama announced his opposition to the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General. But I am surprised he followed the formulaic approach of waiting until after Lynch’s Judiciary Committee to make this announcement, since his position is that the Senate needed to block any nominee to any key Justice Department post that supported the president’s executive action on immigration.

Since the president is not going to offer a nominee who shares Sessions’ view that he is a constitution-defying tyrant, the practical effect is to insist on going without anyone as Attorney General, which in turn allows the administration to run the Department as it wishes via its current staff. But in Sessions world, where defiant gestures count as “governing,” that doesn’t much matter.

January 29, 2015 10:03 AM The Fix Is Not In

Today’s must-read is on a subject we’ve been following pretty closely here: what happens if the Supreme Court in its review of King v. Burwell strikes down the “premium tax credit” insurance purchasing subsidies provided in the Affordable Care Act in the 36 states that did not set up their own purchasing exchanges. It’s not that there’s anything inherently complicated about the “fix.” Congress could resolve the problem in about a day with a one- or two-sentence amendment to ACA that made plain what the bill’s sponsor’s clearly intended all along: the subsidies are available in all 50 states.

The problem, of course, is that Republicans cannot support a simple “fix” after years of treating Obamacare as a socialistic abomination unto the Lord. But if they do nothing, millions of people, many of them Republican voters (particularly since Republican-run states were the most likely to reject the “complicity” in Obamacare that setting up an exchange supposedly involve), would suffer higher insurance premiums and terrible things could happen to the entire health insurance market-place, and they could be quite rightly blamed. Worse yet, it is widely perceived that the odds of a SCOTUS decision decimating the subsidies depends on the degree of preparation for it by Congress, which now means the Republican Party.

So Republicans are casting about for a measure that would turn a “fix” into a policy victory, and as Sahil Kapur of TPM found by talking to a lot of them, they are not close to a consensus.

“It’s an opportunity that we’ve failed at for two decades. We’ve not been particularly close to being on the same page on this subject for two decades,” said a congressional Republican health policy aide who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. “So this idea — we’re ready to go? Actually no, we’re not…”
Thomas Miller, a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, said Republicans are unlikely to have a “fully formed” plan before the ruling. He said it would be a slow burn — they may have to “let off some steam” with repeal votes before they vote on serious solutions.
“Certainly there are cross-pressures and impulses within just the Republican ranks on this,” he said. “There are issues that are not going to be fleshed out — a consensus is not going to be reached in advance of the King decision.”
But Miller said it’s important to build support for a set of proposals ahead of the ruling and have legislation on the shelf that “gets the job done in a period of several weeks in late June to early July.” He proposed three broad ideas to fill the hole the Supreme Court might create: a tax-credit mechanism (which could be income-sensitive, age-adjusted, or a flat dollar amount), block grants to states, and reforms to the exchanges. None will be easy to secure support for.

And that’s just at the elite level. No one at this point in the GOP is addressing how they deal with the ecstatic reaction of their party’s conservative activist base if and when the news blares out on Fox that SCOTUS has landed a lethal spear in the hide of the Great White Whale. Just yesterday polling data came out showing Republican rank-and-file opposed the idea of Congress doing anything to “repair” Obamacare. Ya think maybe the already difficult process of agreeing on a “fix” might be complicated a bit more by the shrieks of “NO! NO! NO!” from every Republican who has been told again and again that the Affordable Care Act is the worst thing to happen to America in living memory? Is it possible a Republican presidential candidate or three would exploit the situation by starting a crusade to destroy any GOP member of Congress who even thinks about “fixing” Obamacare?

Yeah, Republicans have a ways to go on this issue, and not just in terms of reaching the kind of agreement on a health care policy approach that has eluded them for so very long.

January 29, 2015 9:16 AM Look Out Cleveland!

RealClearPolitics’ Sean Trende has a nice sugary treat for political animals today, with a set of scenarios for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination contest that conclude with the July convention in Cleveland having to make a choice among two or more surviving contenders.

The main reason this could happen, of course, is the size and (by conventional measurements of credibility) quality of the field, with no real front-runner and multiple candidates with different electoral and financial bases.

2016 really is the deepest GOP field in a very, very long time. In fact, it isn’t even close. To be clear, that doesn’t mean that eventual candidate is (or will be) the strongest Republican nominee ever. I think that’s unlikely, and in fact, that is crucial to my analysis. It just means that number eight is unusually strong. In 1996, eighth place in Iowa was businessman Morry Taylor. In 2008, it was Alan Keyes (who placed fourth in 2000). This year, eighth place will probably be a candidate we now see as a legitimate contender for the nomination….
Let’s rate this field using a points system as follows: 5 points for a sitting veep, 4 for a sitting senator or governor, 3 for a representative, 2 for Cabinet officials, and 1 for “other.” We’ll (somewhat arbitrarily) add a point for “star power,” and deduct one for candidates who haven’t won a race in the past six years. We’ll do this for all the initial fields going back to 1980 (minor note: Harold Stassen receives a 1 even though he was a former governor. An election in 1938 doesn’t have much bearing in 1988).
The total for the prospective 2016 field is 56 points, by far the highest of any field. The next-closest field, from 2008, totals just 39 points. Moreover, the average candidate quality in 2016 is the highest of the bunch: 3.5 points, compared with 3.1 points for 2012 or 3.3 for 2008. Even this doesn’t tell the whole story though, as the 2008 slate is filled with candidates who were much weaker than their ratings suggested (Jim Gilmore, Sam Brownback, Tommy Thompson). Almost all of the candidates on the 2016 list would have been top-flight contenders against the 2012 field, yet many of them will struggle to finish in the top five in a single primary or caucus.

What this means is that if any candidate with a decent following stumbles or withdraws, credible alternatives will be there to divide up votes instead of some front-runner gradually consolidating and extending a lead. In 2012 after Iowa, which fatally damaged Rick Perry, all Mitt Romney had to do was to outlast two seriously flawed rivals who were hurting each other, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. It should be a different game this time around.

[Y]ou have a perfectly plausible scenario where we exit the early primary phase of the contest with four winners, each of whom is a legitimate presidential contender. What’s more, it’s not entirely clear how they knock each other out. Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul all represent different wings of the party, would draw from different fundraising bases, and would have different demographic appeals. Just as important: None is an obvious choice, but at the same time, unlike 2012, all will have a group of supporters that really likes them; it won’t just be an “anti-Bush” vote trying to coalesce. You can mix up the various winners (Rubio, Christie, Perry, Paul), but the same analysis holds.

As Trende mentions, there are plenty of wildcards, including the Super-PACs that played so big a role in 2012. But the consolidation of primaries that the RNC encouraged to make an early winner more possible could, with this kind of field, backfire, with multiple candidates finding ways to survive a relatively short gauntlet and head towards the convention.

Now a lot of this may just be the wishful thinking of someone too young (Sean was born in 1973) to remember a nominating convention where the outcome was in any real doubt (the 1976 Republican convention was the last of those). Lord knows Democrats would enjoy watching an extended slugfest that concluded with shadowy power-brokers and outright criminals extorting huge favors from candidates desperate for the last few delegates they need, draining even the deep pockets of the GOP with more than three months to go before Election Day. It almost certainly won’t happen, I believe. But the odds are higher than at any time I can remember.

January 29, 2015 8:00 AM Daylight Video

David Byron, lead singer for Uriah Heep, was born on this day in 1947 (he died in 1985). I have a very distinct memory of some hired band playing the following song to entertain the college students who took over the 1972 Democratic delegate selection caucus in the 4th congressional district of Georgia. It’s Heep’s “Walking in Your Shadow.”

January 28, 2015 5:57 PM Day’s End and Night Watch

My wife is in Anchorage right now, where it’s a balmy 10 degrees, but could be a lot worse. I’ve warned her to steer clear of the Palin clan.

Here are the remains of the day:

* Israel and Hezbollah on brink of most serious confrontation since 2006 after two Israeli soldiers killed by missile strike.

* Rick Perry blithely says continuing criminal case against him won’t crimp his style on the 2016 campaign trail.

* Fascinating Alec MacGillis piece on Jeb Bush and Bill Belichik’s common years at Phillips Academy.

* Just can’t resist linking to this Onion article: “Bobby Jindal Not Sure He Willing To Put Family Through 2-Month Presidential Campaign.”

* At Ten Miles Square, Jonathan Ladd says Greek elections show once again that you can’t solve big problems by plunging people into an economic depression.

* Fed says economy doing well, which immediately produces stock market drop. Go figure.

And in non-political news:

* It’s apparently always a good time to sell Americans trucks.

That’s it for Wednesday. We’ll close with a performance from Lilith Fair, the institution Sarah McLachlan did so much to build, in 1997, with Jewel and the Indigo Girls; their take on “The Water is Wide.”


January 28, 2015 5:21 PM Palin-Bashing Season on the Right

I’ve noted this in passing, but it really does bear a bit of emphasis that all of a sudden it’s become fashionable on the Right to whale away at Sarah Palin for, well, the very things about her liberals have been citing all along. Today someone who was once one of her heartiest defenders, Matt Lewis, turned his back on Palin along with many others:

Has conservative genuflection at the altar of Sarah Palin finally come to a halt?
In case you missed it, her speech in Iowa this week was not well received on the right. The Washington Examiner’s Byron York called it a “long, rambling, and at times barely coherent speech” and National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke said she slipped into self-parody. And there’s more. The Examiner’s Eddie Scarry, for example, contacted several conservative bloggers who were once Palin fans, but have since moved on.

Lewis is definitely in that camp, but is distinguishing himself by admitting Palin critics had a point all along.

Palin was once a reform-minded governor who enjoyed an 88 percent approval rating. But something happened on the way to Des Moines. I suspect the most vicious attacks (especially the “Trig Truther” stuff) radicalized her and embittered her, but I also suspect she also took the easy way out. Instead of going back to Alaska after the 2008 defeat, boning up on the issues, continuing her work as governor, and forging a national political comeback, she cashed in with reality-TV shows and paid speaking gigs.

Lewis makes an even more valid point that I’ve been dwelling on:

Palin has also been harmed by virtue of having created a generation of competitors and replacements. Some of the candidates she endorsed—take Sen. Ted Cruz, for example—are smarter, more relevant versions of her. Why book Palin when you can get Cruz or Paul or Michele Bachmann or… Ben Carson?

Or Mike Huckabee? The answer is you don’t.

January 28, 2015 4:58 PM Love That Medicare, Hate That Medicaid

At the Prospect, Paul Waldman makes an excellent point about the rather strange rhetoric Republicans engaged in when they agree to expand Medicaid, playing off some comments by TPM’s Dylan Scott on Mike Pence’s framing of his own Medicaid expansion:

Pence doesn’t want anybody to get the idea that he doesn’t hate Medicaid. As Dylan Scott explains, Republican governors always seem to find different names to call their Medicaid programs when they accept the Affordable Care Act’s expansion, and they never utter the vile word “Obamacare,” even though that’s the source of the money they’re taking:
“Pence might have been the boldest yet. His office effectively portrayed his state’s plan as a blow to Medicaid and government-funded health care.”
This is actually the inverse of the way Republicans talk and act when it comes to Medicare. These Republican governors want to expand Medicaid for very practical reasons: having huge numbers of uninsured poor citizens creates a less healthy workforce, imposes costs on the state through uncompenstated care, and is generally an economic drag…. But in public, ideology demands that they claim that Medicaid is awful and they want nothing to do with it; in the extreme case, you get someone like Pence trying to convince people that he’s striking a blow against the program by expanding it.
When it comes to Medicare, however, it’s exactly the opposite. Republicans actually dislike it, precisely because it’s a huge government program that works. But because it’s so popular, they have to pretend in public that they’re its greatest defenders….
You’ll notice that every attempt by Republicans to privatize or other undermine Medicare is presented as a plan to “strengthen” it, the mirror image of how GOP governors now say they’re weakening Medicaid by expanding it. Maybe someone should propose moving poor people into Medicare, which Republicans say they love so much. Then they’d have no idea what to say.

Nah, they’d say Medicare is a retirement benefit you earn with hard work and payroll contributions, and thus isn’t for those people. Besides, you can’t “strengthen” Medicare by cutting it if you’re at the same time weakening it by expanding it. Or something.

January 28, 2015 4:10 PM First Straw Poll for the Jen Rubin Primary

Of all the political gabbers out there, the one whose loyalties any Republican candidate probably most ought to covet is WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin. It’s not that she’s all that influential, though she does have a good platform. It’s that once she’s joined your crew, you are the ship and all else is the sea. Just ask Mitt Romney.

So it’s with interest that I read her statement today that she’s going to do (apparently over some stretch of time) an evaluation of the 2016 Republican presidential field. She began with Scott Walker, basing her discussion on the “argument” he made in a recent interview with Sean Hannity.

Rubin listed ten talking points in favor of Walker, and adjudged all of them as solid. That’s ten out of ten.

Here was the one to which I would pay the most attention:

On foreign policy, he is as fluent at this point in the campaign on national security as any first-time nominee in recent memory (with the exception of Sen. John McCain in 2008) and has only begun to talk about the subject. (Did Bill Clinton know any more in 1992?) But a good deal of the issue here is about temperament. Walker is neither unpredictably explosive nor excessively excitable. That can’t be said about a number of candidates. The ability to project steely resolve certainly matters here, as does his belief in the United States’ unique role in the world.

You know, I follow this stuff pretty obsessively, and I’m not sure I could tell you the first thing about Scott Walker’s foreign policy views. But you have to figure Jen Rubin isn’t going to give him the foreign policy seal of approval unless he’s sending off some pretty strong neocon vibes.

Maybe Rubin’s strategy is to be nice to everybody before she picks the person she is going to lionize for many months. Or who knows, maybe she’s even internalized being incessantly criticized as a hack and a shill and is turning over a new leaf. But in any event, I had figured she’d be in the tank for Marco Rubio this time around. If so, she’d better reach for the thesaurus to come up with positive adjectives she didn’t already lavish onto Scott Walker.

January 28, 2015 3:13 PM 140 Characters Would Have Been Enough

News had slowed down, and it usually takes a major occasion for Peggy Noonan to publish something beyond her weekly Friday column. So yeah, I fished in and read Noonan’s post from Monday night entitled “Bread Bags,” figuring we’d get her definitive take on Joni Ernst.

864 words later, I deduced that about all Peggy really had to say was “I remember wearing bags over my good shoes, too.”

Somebody really does need to introduce her to Twitter. 140 characters would have been more than enough.

UPDATE: I should have done this first, but I looked at Twitter, and to my surprise Peggy does have an account, and in fact tweeted the blog post in question:

If she’d just added “bread bag shoes” at the end the column would have been unnecessary.

January 28, 2015 2:03 PM Lunch Buffet

Didn’t hit the seven-post mark before Lunch Buffet for the first time in a good while because I had some work to do on an article for the print magazine (my review of Huck’s book turned into something a bit different). Hope you’ll enjoy it when it comes out.

Here are some midday news/views tasty treats:

* Andrew Sullivan announces he’ll soon renounce the blogging life.

* Elijah Cummings says Hillary Clinton now ready to testify on Benghazi! If I were her I’d let Jon Stewart script it.

* Lotta complaining from congressional Republicans over poor ratings handed out by Heritage Action.

* Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings on Loretta Lynch show unflappable nominee dealing with Republicans dragging her through entire history of Obama administration.

* Administration backs off part of higher ed proposal that would have substituted other incentives for “529 plans” popular with upper- and upper-middle-class parents.

And in non-political news:

* PPP finds plurality of Americans think Pats are cheaters, but team still trails Cowboys as “most hated” in NFL.

As we break for lunch, here’s Sarah McLachlan, who is 47 today, performing in an award-winning 1992 video for “Into the Fire.”

January 28, 2015 1:16 PM The Triple-Headed Monster

Fresh from becoming an international laughing-stock for telling the British their country is riddled with Sharia-ruled “no go zones,” Bobby Jindal is back home, and without missing a beat, is insisting these non-existent zones are coming to America. Here’s the story from BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential Republican candidate for president, warned in an interview Monday on the Family Research Council’s Washington Watch radio program of the possibility of so-called Muslim “no go zones” coming to America, focusing later on what he called a possible sharia “colonization” and “invasion” of America.
“If we’re not careful the same no-go zones you’re seeing now in Europe will come to America,” said Jindal singling out those in “academic” and “media elite” who he said “don’t want to proclaim American exceptionalism….”
Jindal said it was unacceptable to have people who come and try to “conquer us,” calling it “colonization” and “an invasion” that could lead to more “lone wolf” terror attacks.

It’s not real clear exactly what Jindal proposes to do about this “threat” unless he just wants to ban Muslim immigrants he doesn’t deem as sufficiently “assimilated.”

But the political motive here is pretty clear. Bobby’s trying to take conservatives fears about immigration, Islam, and terrorism and weave them into a titanic threat: a triple-headed monster of un-Americanism. It worked for some Republican candidates during the last cycle, and it probably made a serious contender out of carpetbagger Scott Brown in New Hampshire. Bobby’s a presidential candidate looking for a signature theme to elevate himself among the conservative mob. Sounds like he thinks he’s found it, and he’s not going to let mere facts or ridicule from Eurotrash get in his way.

January 28, 2015 11:17 AM Not Quite Ready for Obamacare Plan B

Even as Republicans try to get their act together to make plans for what they would do if the Supreme Court kills Obamacare purchasing subsidies in 36 states in the case they are expected to decide in June, the Kaiser Health Tracking poll indicates the rank-and-file aren’t on board with any Plan B.

Asked rather blandly if Congress should act in this case “so that people in all states can be eligible for financial help from the government to buy health insurance,” the public at large said “yes” by a 64/27 margin. But among self-identified Republicans “no” wins by a 49-40 margin. In a follow-up question, more Republicans (51%) would favor state action to set up an exchange if necessary, but it’s not clear what conditions they’d expect.

Getting back to the idea of federal remedial action, it’s already going to be a real challenge—to put it mildly—to get majorities of Republicans in both chambers of Congress to agree on some Plan B, which would presumably involve temporary subsidies in exchange for some major changes in the basics of the Affordable Care Act. But if the weight of opinion among the “base” is that Congress should do nothing at all to “fix” Obamacare, you better believe there will be a sizable bloc in Congress that finds some reason for saying no to any Plan B. Time’s a-wasting to change that dynamic.

January 28, 2015 10:52 AM Coming Your Way in June: The JoniFest

Well, it was bad enough that after winning a Senate seat in no small part due to unforced errors by her opponent and a media herd fascinated by her signature idiot-savant ad and uninterested in her extremism, Joni Ernst was chosen to deliver the official GOP response to the SOTU address. Now she’s presuming after fifteen minutes in office to replicate her predecessor Tom Harkin in holding a signature party event. While Harkin had his Steak Fry, for Ernst it will be the “Roast and Ride,” the better to highlight her lethal relationship with hogs and her Harley riding.

Under a gigantic photo of the new Senator, Politico’s Glueck and Hohmann assess her suddenly titanic political clout, and figure her event will be a can’t-miss for the presidential field. The new hep 2016 candidate, Scott Walker, who shares a major consultant with Ernst, has already committed to be there.

Almost every speaker at King’s event over the weekend mentioned Ernst. There were lots of jokes, including from Walker, about Ernst’s commercial last year in which she talked about castrating pigs as a kid before promising to “make ‘em squeal” if she went to Washington.
Ernst, for her part, spoke at King’s event about the importance of winning the presidency in 2016 and reelecting senior Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
“I think we’re all aware that we must take back the White House,” Ernst said in her speech, which she delivered before flying to California for a Koch brothers-sponsored donors seminar. “If we expect to get through this gridlock and have signed into law the wonderful legislation we’re passing, we must have a Republican president.”
She was not made available for an interview for this story.

Why should she bother with doing interviews? She’s being treated like political royalty without them, and doesn’t face the temptation to say crazy things like she used to pretty regularly. It’s just a matter of time until she’s at the top of everybody’s Veep lists.

January 28, 2015 9:58 AM The Walker Boom and Its Meaning

I wrote a bit on Monday about Scott Walker’s appeal to the kind of conservatives who attended the Iowa Freedom Summit over the weekend. But since Walker’s now enjoying something of a boom, I expanded on my hypothesis in the weekly TPMCafe column, focusing on the Wisconsin governor’s implicit and sometimes explicit electability argument: he’s proven you can win in a blue state via confrontation rather than compromise. Indeed, while writing the column I remembered a 2013 Walker op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that told conservative readers exactly what they wanted to hear:

Polls show that about 11% of the people in Wisconsin today support both me and the president. There are probably no two people in public life who are more philosophically opposite—yet more than one in 10 approve of us both.
To make a conservative comeback, Republicans need to win these Obama-Walker voters and their equivalents across the country. In the Wisconsin recall election, we mobilized conservative voters by standing up for conservative principles against enormous pressure. But we also persuaded at least some of President Obama’s supporters to support us, too…
The way Republicans can win those in the middle is not by abandoning their principles. To the contrary, the courage to stand on principle is what these voters respect. The way to win the center is to lead.
That’s why those arguing that conservatives have to “moderate” their views if they want to appeal to the country are so wrong.

It’s hard to overestimate how seductive this pitch is to conservatives tired of being told by Jeb Bush and every MSM pundit in America that they need to clean up their act and reach out to new constituencies to win back the White House. So I think Walker starts this contest with a leg up, and just needs to keep showing he can give a fiery speech (and stay out of the hoosegow!).

Over at TNR today, Brian Beutler has a parallel but somewhat different take on Walker: in his big speech in Des Moines, he was one of the few speakers who did not bother to pay lip service to the GOP’s alleged new interest in inequality.

Just as it has dawned on the rest of the GOP field that Republicans should appropriate typically Democratic issues like income inequality and champion rather than disdain the 47 percent, here comes Walker to remind them that government dependency is a choice and that the playing field for all Americans is already level.
“In all the years I was in school, doesn’t matter whether it was in Plainfield or Delavan, here in Iowa or Wisconsin, there was never a time when I heard one of my classmates say to me, ‘Hey Scott, hey Scott, some day when I grow up I want to become dependent on the government’, right?” Walker observed near the end of his speech to knowing laughter. “In America the opportunity is equal for each and every one of us, but in America, the ultimate outcome is up to each and every one of us individually.”

I dunno. This all sounds like conservative boilerplate to me, not some conscious decision to ignore or deny inequality. I’m sure if someone puts lines in a Walker speech attacking Obama for inequality he’ll read them without missing a beat or noticing it contradicts earlier themes.

But there is something about Walker—not so much ideological fervor but sheer hammer-headed obstinacy—that makes one despair that a Republican Party, much less a (shudder) country under his leadership would be characterized by any fresh thinking. It’s hard to imagine him sitting down with the Reformicons and stretching his mind on the challenges of the twenty-first century. He’s still fighting the conservative wars of the 20th.

I had a friend down in Georgia who used to talk about this kind of Republican by saying: “They look at anything and all they want to know is whether they can eat it, f**k it, or put it to sleep.” I’d laugh without completely understanding what that meant, but I think she was saying they entirely lack imagination. Sounds like Scott Walker to me.

January 28, 2015 9:25 AM Pence Wins or Caves on Medicaid, Depending on How You Look At It

I have to admit, this surprised me:

Indiana on Tuesday announced plans to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act after securing concessions from the Obama administration that could pave the way for other Republican-led states to widen health coverage for low-income residents.
Gov. Mike Pence is the latest Republican to opt into the health law’s expansion of Medicaid despite his party’s opposition to the legislation. His move could prompt up to a half-dozen other GOP-led states to follow suit, including Florida, Tennessee and Alabama, by giving them a model to follow. Under Indiana’s agreement, the state can require some Medicaid enrollees to contribute toward their care.

If I’m not mistaken, HHS had in early negotiations already agreed to let Indiana use the state’s distinctive conservative health policy pet rock, Health Savings Accounts, in providing insurance to some Medicaid beneficiaries, along with the usual “personal responsibility” stuff, which will now include copayments and premiums and restricted access to ERs. Pence also got significantly increased reimbursements for hospitals, which is a pretty good indicator which health care lobby was most behind the move.

It remains to be seen if Indiana’s “deal” will become a template for other Republican-governed states, or will instead encourage them to make new demands.

In the meantime, this isn’t going over very well among conservatives. The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein did not mince words:

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was known as a stalwart fighter for limited government principles as a member of the House of Representatives (one of few Republicans to have voted against President Bush’s Medicare prescription drug plan and No Child Left Behind law). But on Tuesday, he betrayed taxpayers when he embraced an expansion of Medicaid through President Obama’s healthcare law.
Pence argues that his expansion of Medicaid is actually a victory for market-based principles because of concessions he won from the Obama administration providing the state more flexibility over the implementation of the program. But this is merely window dressing. Any plan that expands the Medicaid program imposes more costs on taxpayers, expands the federal role in healthcare and should be passionately opposed by those who care about the nation’s future. The Congressional Budget Office, in its latest report, said that the federal government will be spending $920 billion over a decade expanding Medicaid through Obamacare.
As I wrote in May when Pence first proposed an alternative expansion, ultimately Pence buckled under pressure from hospital lobbyists who are eager to receive more federal money through the expansion.

And here’s the kicker:

The decision to expand Medicaid should damage Pence’s prospects as a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, as it will be harder for him to win back the trust of conservatives who he has already angered by his embrace of Common Core.

Pence had drawn fire from the right for helping usher Indiana out of the Common Core education standards agreement, but then substituting nearly identical state standards.

Yeah, I doubt Pence is going to run for president now. Worse than anything emanating from Beltway conservatives was this statement from the Indiana state director of Americans for Prosperity, the flagship organization of the Koch political empire:

Chase Downham, Indiana state director of Americans for Prosperity, said he agrees that Medicaid needs to be overhauled but that “should not come at the cost of expanding an already troubled entitlement program to include hundreds of thousands of able-bodied, working-aged, childless adults.”
“Hoosiers believe in the dignity of work and desire the prosperity that comes with a job opportunity, not more government-funded health care,” Downham said.

Pence’s close relationship with the Kochs—and particularly with Americans for Prosperity— was thought to be one of his advantages if he did run for president. If he’s lost them, he ain’t all that.

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