Regardless of what the U.S. Supreme Court says, President Barack Obama plans to move ahead with the implementation of the new healthcare law at full speed. At least that's what senior administration officials are telling people.
No one knows what the court is going to do. It is widely expected they will declare unconstitutional the individual mandate that all Americans purchase some form of health insurance or face fines and penalties. They may go further, tossing out parts of the bill or, in what can only be seen as a stunning rebuke to the president and congressional Democrats, toss the whole thing out.
So far, the administration has been behaving—at least publicly—like it has blinders on. For obvious reasons it will not acknowledge the possibility that they might have to start over again. "We do believe it's constitutional and we," senior presidential adviser David Plouffe said on ABC Sunday, “hope and expect that's the decision the court will render."
The new law has a lot of moving parts and in many places already funds everything it is supposed to do, making it difficult for congressional opponents of the law to use the authorization and appropriations process to delay its implementation by withholding the money needed to do so. In this way, the partisan deadlock in Congress is Obama's friend—not his enemy, as he likes to claim—because it prevents legislators from doing anything to change the law.
The president needs to be more forthcoming about what he intends to do once the Supreme Court issues its decision and the Washington press corps needs to do a better job asking about it. So far, they've given him pretty close to a free ride—and that's not serving the best interests of the public. There's been plenty of speculation—and plenty of questions about what former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would do about healthcare were he president. There's been a lot of analysis about the various ideas being floated by the GOP to replace Obamacare. There's been nary a peep about what Obama would do, perhaps because no one really knows. And that is why reporters should start asking.
At the same time the Republicans need to have a plan, one that begins with another vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on full repeal of Obamacare. The voters sent a clear message in 2010 that they didn't like the new law. They voted for repeal. Congress need to do likewise and the GOP, if it is smart, will again try to lead the way.