GOP Rep. Joe Heck Catches Hell From Constituent Over ACA Repeal Votes

Town hall meetings of 2013 have a distinctively different flavor from those of 2009.

This is such a delicious piece of video. I watched it twice, just to see Joe Heck stutter and stumble around his answers to this constituent, a small business owner who is already benefiting from the Affordable Care Act.

Greg Sargent:

The constituent, a self-described “business person,” says the law has already saved him money and will save him more in the future, adding that it has already bent the cost curve. “Why would you oppose the ACA at every turn?” the man asks. “Why would you oppose something that’s helping me now?”

What this sort of encounter confirms, as another similar moment with GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina did recently, is that we may now be heading into new political territory when it comes to Obamacare. Polls continue to show the law remains unpopular and that public confusion about it remains rampant. But now that the law’s concrete benefits are kicking in, it may be harder for Republicans to explain their continuing drive to repeal it, particularly to constituents who understand what repeal would take away from them. We’re a long way from the anti-Obamacare town halls of the magical Summer of ’09.

Yes, indeed we are, though that doesn't stop Rep. Heck from pulling out the same old boring and tired arguments about how it will cost employers with more than 50 employees more, or how it was "passed in the middle of the night" with no Republican votes, or how the rate band compression will end up being more costly. And so on. Yawn.

One of the more interesting facets of Heck's response was how quickly he was willing to toss small businesses under the bus in favor of large ones. In the video, he acknowledges the business owner is benefiting, but quickly follows that up with the warning that those poor large corporations will suffer so small business can benefit. This tracks closely with the US Chamber of Commerce and NFIB opposition to the ACA, but those organizations are now reaping the whirlwind they sowed.

For businesses, the stakes amid all this disruption are enormous. They are keenly interested in tax reform and immigration reform. They would like to see more federal spending on infrastructure and less on entitlements, and less federal regulation across the board. They don't like brinkmanship on budget and debt issues, or the more routine dysfunction that has stalled transportation and agriculture legislation important to both parties and much of the private sector. And as most business groups have made crystal clear, they really, really don't like the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Yet there is little to no business support for the latest tea-party-driven crusade to block any funding bill that includes money for the health care law, even if it means the government would shut down when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. Bruce Josten, executive vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, calls that "not the politically astute thing to do." Bill Miller, senior vice president in charge of outreach to Congress and the administration at the policy-oriented Business Roundtable, says his group considers that strategy unrealistic and is now focused on trying to shape ACA regulations.

Awwww, what's that saying about dancing with the devil? Something about being burned? I have bad news for these guys. It's going to get worse, not better. For example, conservative radio pundit Mark Levin has a new book out this week, test-driving even more bad conservative ideas in the form of what he calls "The Liberty Amendments." If these ideas catch on, we're all screwed except for maybe a handful of billionaires.

The book, which offers ten constitutional amendments, evokes a certain idealism that would be endearing if the consequences to the lives of millions weren't so horrific. Levin's proposals, of course, set the conservative media's heart aflutter.

Rush Limbaugh gave the book a ringing endorsement, saying on his radio program: "The Constitution's bastardized. It's been bastardized for years. It's been shredded for years. It needs to be reaffirmed. And Levin's book is a series of ideas of how to do it that involves the American people."

Levin isn't just another radio host, as Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus recently said he was receptive to the idea of Levin and Sean Hannity moderating a 2016 Republican presidential primary debate.

In The Liberty Amendments, Levin lays out a conservative dystopian nightmare. Among the most toxic of his ideas would be the redefinition of the Commerce Clause to wipe out nearly all the hard fought protections of the 20th century. By arguing that the federal government's powers under Article 1, Section 8 have been unjustly expanded by the Supreme Court, Levin implicitly acknowledges this debate is over. Instead of accepting this, Levin seeks to alter the clause by limiting the definition of interstate commerce explicitly to "preventing states from impeding commerce and trade between and among the several States."

You thought Barry Goldwater was bad? The John Birch Society? Strap in, folks, because it's about to get much, much worse at the hands of those like Rep. Joe Heck who are so willing to bearhug terrible policy in the name of billionaire backing.

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