Appearing on Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd blamed Republicans for ObamaCare beginning to collapse under its own weight: "...you could argue that there are some Republicans that are trying to sabotage the law, that they're hoping to not get it off the ground and then they can suddenly make the case, 'See, we've got to get rid of it.' And they've got some state governors that are openly trying to sabotage it." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Todd went on to attack Republican senators who protested an effort by the Obama administration to use the NFL to promote ObamaCare: "Look at what [Mitch] McConnell and [John] Cornyn did to the sports leagues? That was a shakedown. That was a threatening letter by the two leaders of the Senate Republicans, who essentially said, 'If you participate in this, if you help them try to enact this law of the land, be careful, there's going to be political repercussions.'"
Moments later, left-wing Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne eagerly agreed with Todd's assessment: "Chuck is right about – the NFL thing was really unseemly and I don't think they needed to go there."
Apparently the government using a major corporation to sell a political agenda was not equally "unseemly" to Todd or Dionne.
Todd began his rant by sympathetically declaring that the White House "thought that Republicans after the election would basically concede this is going to be the law of the land and then they would be in the mode of, 'Okay, we'll try and fix it'....But they're not getting [that]."
In response to Todd's claim of sabotage, New York Times columnist David Brooks shot back: "The Republicans would say, 'We're sabotaging a Rube Goldberg device that wouldn't work any way.' I mean, this is an incredibly complex law, so it's not – surely there is Republican opposition, but this is an incredibly complex law doing a lot of things probably it shouldn't do."
Turning to Republican Congressman Raul Labrador near the end of the panel discussion, moderator David Gregory parroted White House spin on delaying the employer health insurance mandate: "Why shouldn't this be seen a different way? Which is the Obama administration making a real and credible concession to the business community to make sure that this is implemented in a thorough and effective way."
Labrador replied: "Well, that's what the Obama administration wants you to believe.... But the question is, what part of ObamaCare actually works? Because if you look at – they've already had to concede on other points that ObamaCare is not working....There's nothing about this law that is working in the United States..."
Here is a full transcript of the July 7 panel discussion:
DAVID GREGORY: We are back with our political roundtable joining me. Columnist for The New York Times, David Brooks, columnist – Brooks, rather – columnist for the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne – Brooks and Dionne. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, and still here, of course, Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd.
So I want to switch gears from foreign policy to domestic policy, and a lot of fights back here at home including, David Brooks, health care. You know, I talked to a business leader about a week ago. He said he still couldn't understand why the administration would pass a health care law and execute on a health care law, the impact of which was so uncertain. He said, "We would never do that in business." And here was another example of that. Explain what's happened and the impact of it.
DAVID BROOKS: Yeah, well, what they're trying to do is regulate 17% of the U.S. economy, roughly the size of the economy of France. That's bound to be a problem. That's bound to go through messy things. And the employer mandate which they delayed is the smallest foothill of the problems. The biggest problems are things like the exchanges, which is where people are going to buy insurance. Whether young people, who really don't have much of an incentive to get into the system, are gonna get in the system. Those are going to be big and messy. And whether you support it or oppose it, you've just got to be ready for that messiness.
The crucial thing for us is, how does that messiness interact with the political system? We could be at moment of peak messiness just as the midterm elections come around. And so the administration is concerned about that intersection and one of the things they did with this employer mandate is pushed it back until after those midterm elections. But I personally think that if we could just have the messiness, we'd work it through, somehow they'd fix it. But when the political system comes into the middle, that could really throw a wrench into things.
GREGORY: Well, and the political system, E.J., is House Republicans thinking back to the glory days of 2010 when Republicans took the House based on health care, and Eric Cantor tweeting this week, "Why does President Obama think businesses deserve a delay from the mandates in ObamaCare but you don't? It's time for a #permanentdelay."
E.J. DIONNE: Well, you know, one of the things I'd tell that businessman is a lot of people in business have made a lot of money by taking chances. It's not as if trying to do something new is easy and trying to do something new is often the right thing to do. And I think in the case of this health care law, David's right, there is a clash with the political system, because in the past, in many cases, we've always passed complicated laws that Congress went back and they could fix it. And the Republicans in this case say, "We're never going to fix this. We're going to let it run forward." We fixed Social Security over and over again after it passed to make it better.
I think the task – this has been a bad week for Obama because the last thing they wanted to do is say these mandate – this mandate won't work as well this way and we're gonna want to re-look it – they don't like that. But the big tasks are, do these exchanges, these marketplaces where people can find insurance, work? Do they sign up young people? And will there be states out there that actually make this thing work? So that the Obama people and supporters of reform can say, "Look, this can work if states put their shoulder to the wheel with the feds."
GREGORY: Eugene Robinson, I don't understand exactly how the exchanges are going to work, I don't understand all the ins and outs of the employer mandate and how that works. But anybody who gets a paycheck in this country understands one thing, that there's a new line item and it says, "Medicare surtax." So the tax part's working. You're paying more in taxes for ObamaCare. That part's working. It makes a lot of people mad.
EUGENE ROBINSON: Well, yeah, look, but let's back up for a second. This fight really is wholly political. I mean ObamaCare is not going to be repealed. Right? Because they're not going to have majorities in either House to repeal it, and in fact, President Obama would never sign that. So it's going to be messy. It's going to be politically contentious. But in the end it's going to work out the way it works out. And, you know, if it's a big bust, then there's political problems down the road. But it's going to happen.
ANDREA MITCHELL: But for it to work, the exchanges have to take place, and state after state now, run by Republican governors and Republican legislatures, are trying to roll back or have rolled back or saying they won't participate. And you have to have a certain coherent whole for this to work economically. You can't nibble away at it. And in fact, these are big bites out of it. I think also in the reporting, losing that mandate is such a concession, it may not be the biggest piece of it, but it's a concession to the critics that something needs to be delayed, that something's not working. I think that's a politically damaging moment.
CHUCK TODD: Well, they'll admit that the business mandate was poorly written, that they normally would have sought a legislative fix, what E.J. was talking about, but they can't get a legislative fix out of the House. But the bigger issue here, I think, for the administration is that they don't seem – they've got to build all this, they know that – they thought that Republicans after the election would basically concede this is going to be the law of the land and then they would be in the mode of, "Okay, we'll try and fix it. We'll try to get as much as we can to change it in ways that we think business wants it changed or to change it in ways we think will make it a little less bureaucratic and things like that."
But they're not getting – there's – you could argue that there are some Republicans that are trying to sabotage the law, that they're hoping to not get it off the ground and then they can suddenly make the case, "See, we've got to get rid of it." And they've got some state governors that are openly trying to sabotage it. You've got – look at what McConnell and Cornyn did to the sports leagues? That was a shakedown. That was a threatening letter by the two leaders of the Senate Republicans, who essentially said...
GREGORY: When the NFL was going to come out and, yeah.
TODD: ..."If you participate in this, if you help them try to enact this law of the land, be careful, there's going to be political repercussions."
BROOKS: They would say – the Republicans would say, "We're sabotaging a Rube Goldberg device that wouldn't work any way." I mean, this is an incredibly complex law, so it's not – surely there is Republican opposition, but this is an incredibly complex law doing a lot of things probably it shouldn't do. We probably shouldn't have employer insurance at all.
DIONNE: But Chuck is right about – the NFL thing was really unseemly and I don't think they needed to go there. But what you do have, if the states don't participate, is that the federal government steps in and creates those marketplaces. And that's also going to be an interesting challenge. Can the feds show that a – maybe a national law would have been better in the first place, all these concessions to states' rights were an effort to get it passed.
GREGORY: Let me bring in Congressman Raul Labrador of Idaho, a conservative in the House, Tea-Party-supported. Congressman, welcome back. And let me have you weigh in on this particular issue. Why shouldn't this be seen a different way? Which is the Obama administration making a real and credible concession to the business community to make sure that this is implemented in a thorough and effective way.
RAUL LABRADOR [REP. R-ID]: Well, that's what the Obama administration wants you to believe. I think they want you to think that they're listening to the business owners. And I think you can give them a little bit of credit for that. But the question is, what part of ObamaCare actually works? Because if you look at – they've already had to concede on other points that ObamaCare is not working. Now they have to do it on the employer mandate. And pretty soon I think they're going to have to have some questions about the individual mandate.
There's nothing about this law that is working in the United States, all businesses are concerned. And it was interesting to listen to Senator Menendez say that this portion of the law was only going to affect about 1% of the businesses. Why is it that Democrats and this administration thought that it was necessary for them to create a law that was actually going to affect 1% of the businesses, when most businesses with 50 people and plus were actually providing insurance to their employees?