The Republican War On Obamacare Has Just Started (After 7 Years)


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It will come as no surprise to those who know me that in high school I was a bit of a “nerd”.  (For those who are too young to know what I nerd was, think about a socially awkward geek.)

As a nerd I was an enthusiast over the game of chess and the American Civil War.  I did not allow myself to go so far as to limit myself to 19th century technology or participate in any reenactments (although I would have been open to the idea if I was not deathly afraid of firearms).  I did however learn much about 19th century battle tactics by reading everything I could about the American Civil War.  To me it was fascinating.

For example, were you aware that both Union and Confederate commanders at the First Battle of Bull Run (Manasas) had studied at the same military academy, had the same professors and had similar battle plans to feint an attack on one side of the battlefield but have the major attack on the other side?

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the battle proved the truism that even the best plan of battle must be changed after contact with the enemy.  If things had worked as both commanders had planned at Bull Run, both armies would have waltzed around each other and it would have been a race to see which army reached the oppositions capital first.

The training that I had 40 years ago is now helping me understand what is happening in D.C. now.  Although no shots have been fired, at least at this time, make no mistake that the Republican movement to Repeal and Replace (R & R) Obamacare is being handled with the strategies that are common to military campaigns.

ELEMENT OF SURPRISE

After forcing the PPACA through congress in 2010, liberals have spent the last 7 years taunting Republicans.  They had a president who adamantly refused to consider that there could possibly be any flaws in Obamacare and that no good ideas could come from conservatives.  Although the Republicans in congress had passed 40 different bills to repeal Obamacare, both in part and totally, Mr. Obama was very vocal that he would veto any effort on the Republican side to make changes to the PPACA (although he made several changes himself through Administrative rules rather than congress.)

The one time that the Republicans tried to propose a replacement plan to the public, before it was even published, liberals had taken to the media to complain that their plan would never work, without even reading it.

Frankly, I have no problems understanding why they kept silent after that and bid their time until they had a president who they felt they could work with.

The election of 2016 created a perfect storm that allowed full control of both houses of congress and the White House to rest with the Republican party.  The result is that the Republicans can do anything they want for the next two years, and there is nothing that Democrats can do other than delay things and whip up liberal opposition in the media.

One of the principles of warfare that I learned from the Civil War is how powerful the element of surprise is.  For example, the battle of Shiloh, TN was one of the bloodiest days of the early Civil War.  It started with the Confederate Army catching the entire Union army by surprise at breakfast.  When the burst from the tree line on the Union encampment many of the Union soldiers were killed before they were even able to get to their guns and defend themselves.  Those who were able to get to their guns were eventually overwhelmed by the sheer number of confederate soldiers and were run off the battlefield in disarray.

Many historians agree that had the southern soldiers pursued the union forces, they would have annihilated them and the Union army, at least those who survived, would have been forced to leave Dixie.

Unfortunately, the southern solders let up the pressure after the northern soldiers ran away so they could rummage through the union encampment for souvenirs of their victory.  By the time they were ready to pursue the blue-bellies, it was late afternoon and their commander elected to wait until the next day’s light to follow up.

What he did not know is that there were more Union forces in the area.  During the night the Union reinforcements entered the battle line.  The next day, it was the Confederate army who was surprised.  While the first day at Shiloh was an overwhelming southern victory, the second day at Shiloh was a decisive Union victory as the Union army was able to route the Confederate army and not only recapture the ground they had lost on the first day of Shiloh but after that battle they occupied the entire state of TN in just a few weeks for the duration of the war.

It was from TN that Sherman’s famous, or infamous, march through Georgia began.  One could say that the fate of the entire Civil War was decided not at Gettysburg but at the Battle of Shiloh where victories, on both sides, was due to the element of surprise.

With the American Health Care Act, the Republicans have implemented the element of surprise.  They introduced their proposal to replace Obamacare on Monday evening and scheduled the initial committee meetings for Wednesday morning.  Unfortunately, after 7 years of warning that they were going to repeal & replacement Obamacare as soon as they could, the Democratic members of congress cried foul and complained that the Republicans had not given them enough time to prepare before the committee meeting.

After 8 years of a commander in chief telling our enemies where we were going to attack, when we were going to attack and how we were going to attack, I must admit that I too was caught off guard and was tempted to sympathize with Democratic stalling attempt.  Then I remembered the dirty tricks they used to force Obamacare on the nation in 2009-2010 and that they have known that a Republican R&R bill was imminent.  As a party they were too busy organizing boycotts and obstruction plans, that they did not prepare adequately for the Republican parliamentary attack that they got this week.

During the initial markup of the American Health Care Act the Democratic members of congress looked like unprepared fools & the Republicans were able to “steam-roll” their replacement proposal through two sub-committees.

However, the weekend has come and it remains to be seen if the Democrats in the House can regroup and mount a defense in the House Budget Committee next week.

The Element of Surprise is not the only military technique that the Republicans plan of battle contains.  The Republicans plan to attack Obamacare in 3 ways. Or at least that is what they are telling the American public.

Sadly, another lesson I learned from the American Civil War is not to give your enemy too much information about what you intend to do.

In 1862 General Lee, of the Confederacy. planned to invade the Union and capture Abraham Lincoln and occupy the union capital in D.C.  Sadly his plans were accidentally intercepted by the commander of the Union forces.

That commander positioned his forces strategically along the Antietam Creek, outside Sharpsburg, MD so that he could keep his army between Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.  The resulting battle was the bloodiest day of the American Civil War to that point.  It was even more catastrophic than the previous Battle of Shiloh in TN.

If General Lee’s plan of attack had not been discovered, the South could very well have won the war.  Sadly, the tradition of human slavery could still be practiced but on the positive side, Barack Obama would never have been president and the entire nation would not be subjected to Obamacare.

It is very possible that the Republican plan of attack, that they gave to the public, is another principle of warfare that I learned later in life called misdirection,  The principle of misdirection is very simple.  Convince your enemy that you are going to do one thing to the point that they prepare to defend in one area and then attack in a different area.

Misdirection was used extensively by Allied commanders in World War Two.  It was also used, in peace-time, by the last presidential administration when Mr. Obama would manipulate the media to get the American people to concentrate on one issue while he fulfilled his personal agenda in another area.

Only time will tell if the strategy that was outlined this week is the actual strategy that the Republicans are going to use to dismantle Obamacare.  However, for now, you have a right to know how they are claiming things will be done.

(Just remain a bit skeptical.  My experience with Obamacare is that so far nothing has gone the way we were told by the politicians in D.C.  As for me, I do not count on anything until after it has been made official by both congress & the president.  Until then, I encourage you to remain as flexible as possible and not make any decision past 2017 on health insurance.)

BUDGET RECONCILIATION

In 2009 then president Obama used misdirection to confuse the American population.  While he and the leaders of congress made a big show out of “transparent” committee markups, bi-partisan round-table discussions and Gang of Six bi-partisan senators working on a compromise solution to his self-described health insurance crises, Harry Reid wrote the law that was to become the basis for Obamacare in secret with no Republican input.

(As for health insurance being a national crises in 2008, I never bought into that classification.  In my opinion, health insurance was an annoyance at that time, but the system worked for everyone.  Today it is a true national crises that only the federal government can fix what they broke.)

Sadly the rules of the US Senate require 60 votes to pass a legislation without an parliamentary procedure called a filibuster that could delay a vote indefinitely. The Republicans in the House of Representatives understand that senate rule but also understand that the Budget Reconciliation process (a.k.a. Byrd Rule) allows the Senate to pass legislation that affects the U.S. Budget with only a simple majority of senators and Budget Reconciliation bills cannot be delayed by filibuster techniques.

That means that Republicans can, in theory, repeal some of the more heinous parts of Obamacare, including the Individual Mandate and Tax Penalty, but not the entire law with a simple majority.

ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION

When the PPACA was sign into law, in March of 2010, it transfer ed much of the power of congress over health insurance to the Department of Health and Human Services, controlled by the Executive Branch (president) of the United States.

In fact the PPACA give the Secretary of HHS full control over  more than 1400 elements of health insurance.

Now that the Republicans are in control of the Department of HHS, the Republican R & R plan calls on the Secretary of HHS to use the power that the 111th congress gave him to make changes in the Obamacare rules through administrative actions.

Already we have seen a few Executive Orders from president Trump to limit the harm that can be caused by HHS and IRS on American citizens who elected not to participate in Obamacare last year.  However, now that Trump has his nominated Secretary of Health and Human Services in office, he can work through him to correct many of the problems with Obamacare.

Just be advised that the Administrative Actions that can be taken can take longer than the American Health Care Act to go into effect.

Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, must replace many of the Obama era employees who are in key positions before he can do too much.  Even then he is not able to reverse HHS rules immediately.

Before he is able to correct the abuses of power from the Obama era HHS, he must compose the proposed rules, publish them in the Federal Register, wait a minimum of 45 days for the public to offer comments and only then is he able to declare a final ruling.   From idea to rule could take a minimum of 90-120 days.

ON GOING LEGISLATION

The third element in the Republican replacement plan is to press their advantage as long as they have the congressional majority they currently have.  The American Health Care Act is only the first legislation that is going to be acted on.  They have other changes to Obamacare in mind.

The difference is that the AHCA is a budget reconciliation bill and can be passed with a simple majority vote right away.  The other bills that are being considered are subject to the rules of the senate and must have a super-majority (60 senators) to pass.  They will take more time and compromises to pass.

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