Know When to Hold, Know When to Fold

Republicans’ biggest Achilles heel is that they believe their own bullshit. Last week the House GOP cranked out a phony survey that claimed only 67 percent of Obamacare enrollees had paid for their policies. Today the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee held a hearing on Obamacare, and the Republican members were utterly dumbfounded that the insurance executives who testified did not repeat the GOP talking points.

Republicans struggled to land punches against ObamaCare in a hearing Wednesday, as responses from insurance companies deflated several lines of questioning.

Democratic lawmakers were emboldened to defend the Affordable Care Act with renewed vigor and levity, creating a dynamic rarely seen in the debate over ObamaCare. …

… Republicans were visibly exasperated, as insurers failed to confirm certain claims about ObamaCare, such as the committee’s allegation that one-third of federal exchange enrollees have not paid their first premium.

Four out of five companies represented said more than 80 percent of their new customers had paid. The fifth, Cigna, did not offer an estimate.

Republicans also stumbled in asking insurers to detail next year’s premium rates. Companies are still in the process of calculating prices, and they have a strong financial incentive not to air early projections in public.

They honestly believed the hearing would confirm their bogus report? Actual facts caught them off guard? Apparently a lot of the Republican members walked out early, once they realized they weren’t going to get any useful anti-Obamacare ammunition. Some in rightie media were left with the the old foot in the mouth …

Across the board, the health insurance executives testified that the payment rate for premiums was somewhere between 80 and 90 percent, while stressing that these data are preliminary and that outstanding payments are still coming in.

This was a stinging rebuke of the Republicans on the very committee to which the executives were testifying, who had issued a report last week claiming that the premium payment rate was actually 67 percent. That report, which was based on incomplete data and rigged to produce a low number, was met with derision by journalists and observers who saw it as a transparent ploy to create a damaging anti-Obamacare talking point.

Conservative media, however, ate it up. “White House tries spin move on gloomy Obamacare numbers,” said Fox News. “The enrollment totals were bogus and worse than expected,” clucked Townhall’s Guy Benson, who later sneered at the White House’s pushback on the report.

Naturally, the headline at Reason is “Insurers Testify that 10-20 Percent of Obamacare Sign-Ups Haven’t Paid, Some Are Duplicates.” But y’know, the 10 percent easily could be people who got insured through new jobs, or through some other way, and decided they didn’t need the exchange policy. And if some are duplicates (from people making repeated attempts to sign up), that suggests the percentage of actual unpaid policies might be lower.

It’s also notable that the House Republicans apparently expected the insurance guys to be their buddies and give them the sound bytes they wanted. It doesn’t dawn on them that the insurance execs are mostly interested in keep their companies profitable, which means they want the exchanges to work. Because they make money selling insurance policies, and the exchanges are helping them tap into a market they weren’t tapping into before. The GOP is too lost in the weeds to realize that, it seems.

Clarence Thomas and Stockholm Syndrome.

Charles Pierce calls Justice Clarence Thomas “the last Confederate.” I hadn’t realized the Justice has a “thing” about the 14th Amendment and thinks it has been incorrectly applied to deny states the power to trample on the rights of U.S. citizens.

Yes, that 14th Amendment. The one that ensured people of color were citizens and stopped the “Black Codes.” The one that has been the primary foundation of much civil rights case law. I started to call this blog post “Is Clarence Thomas trying to prove Cliven was right?” but decided it was a bit too incendiary. But were the Black Codes okay with you, Justice Thomas?

Now that the Court has said it is perfectly fine to expect citizens to sit through prayers to Jesus at a town council meeting — the Court’s three Jewish members and just one of the Catholics disagreed — it turns out Justice Thomas thinks the establishment clause shouldn’t be binding on the states at all. So let Louisiana make Christianity the state religion and tell the Buddhist public school student to suck it up.

I was not aware, however, that several years ago Justice Thomas wrote a dissenting opinion that said states have the right to determine qualifications of senators and representatives elected to the federal Congress.

Emphasizing that “the Federal Government’s powers are limited and enumerated,” Justice Thomas said that “the ultimate source of the Constitution’s authority is the consent of the people of each individual state, not the consent of the undifferentiated people of the nation as a whole.” Consequently, he said, the states retained the right to define the qualifications for membership in Congress beyond the age and residency requirements specified in the Constitution. Noting that the Constitution was “simply silent” on the question of the states’ power to set eligibility requirements for membership in Congress, Justice Thomas said the power fell to the states by default. The Federal Government and the states “face different default rules,” Justice Thomas said. “Where the Constitution is silent about the exercise of a particular power — that is, where the Constitution does not speak either expressly or by necessary implication — the Federal Government lacks that power and the states enjoy it.”

That has been the basic argument since the Constitutional Convention began, and every time that it has been litigated — in the debates over ratificaton of the Constitution, in the battle over the tariff with South Carolina, when Webster stood up to Hayne, when John C. Calhoun fashioned his doctrine of nullification out of it, when the nation tore out its own guts between 1860 and 1865, and, most recently, when “massive resistance” became the strategy through which white supremacy sought to break the civil rights movement — it has failed. It was the basis for the Reconstruction amendments, especially the 14th, which Thomas curiously elides in both his term-limits dissent and his government-prayer concurrence.

So sad.