I think many reporters and analysts who are watching the Affordable Care Act attack efforts in Washington are making the same mistake I made a few weeks ago.
I worked hard to figure out how the Senate rules for considering budget measures and ordinary bills work. I got in so deep that, for a few hours, I could remember the name of the Senate parliamentarian.
I thought that President Donald Trump might have a hard time getting the 60 votes needed to change or replace the ACA under traditional Senate rules, as opposed to simply de-funding it under traditional Senate rules. Or, that he might have a hard time getting major, quick changes to the ACA through the courts.
Then I watched Senate Republicans get Trump cabinet secretaries through the committee review process without the committee member quorums normally required.
I also saw how Trump changed border control rules with a simple executive order that, as far as I could tell, wasn’t even up on the White House website when it took effect.
Homeland Security John Kelly said Sunday that his department will comply with court orders regarding the executive order. But there have been press reports of U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel at some airports ignoring the court orders. It’s not clear how easy it is to get the court orders enforced when violations occur.
After I thought about all of this, I realized that Trump has learned something important from the Obama administration: How to aside checks and balances, such as Senate procedural rules and court rulings.
For all sorts of high-minded reasons, Obama administration officials blew off many, many House Republican requests for information about ACA programs, such as the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan program, the ACA cost-sharing reduction subsidy program, and even the ACA Small Business Health Options Program small-group exchange program.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would send official after official to congressional hearings to, in effect, say nothing, in an effort to defend the ACA programs against the Republican meanies in Congress.
HHS officials defied the Republicans in Congress because House Republicans were always trying to strangle the ACA.
HHS officials wanted to defend their ability to offer flawed but potentially life-saving health coverage for the moderate-income sick people who, in many states, had no access to major medical coverage of any kind before the ACA came along.
But the result of HHS people wiggling procedural rules hard to defend the ACA is that they showed Trump and congressional Republicans how to use new and improved versions of that strategy to attack the ACA.