Norquist Says Obama to Take Health Delays, Avoid Shutdown

Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist predicted that President Barack Obama will agree to delay implementation of the bulk of his health-care law set to take effect on Oct. 1 and avoid a government shutdown.

“They’ve been delaying whole sections of it, again and again and again,” Norquist, president of Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform, said on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “It’s going to be increasingly difficult for the White House” not to delay other parts of the law.

“It wouldn’t be a complete embarrassment to say, ‘We’re going to let everyone have a year,’” Norquist said, dismissing talk of blocking funding for the measure Obama signed in 2010.

“I think he’d rather give you his liver than do that,” Norquist said of the chances Obama would agree to the defunding push. So I don’t think that’s an option.”

While some Republicans led by Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah are attempting to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t stop financing the Affordable Care Act, the real battle is about stalling its implementation, Norquist said.

The Obama administration already has delayed a requirement that some employer-provided health insurance plans cap employees’ out-of-pocket costs, and a mandate that larger companies offer health insurance. Federal regulators also put off the annual limit on costs that patients must pay above what their insurance covers.

Insurance Exchanges

Yet the White House opposes other delays in a law aimed at providing health insurance for millions of Americans who lack coverage, with newly created insurance exchanges set to begin enrolling people in October for coverage starting Jan. 1.

Obama focused on the law in his weekly radio and Internet address today, saying “we’re well on our way to fully implementing” it. He also criticized congressional Republicans he said are “working hard to confuse people, and making empty promises that they’ll either shutdown the health-care law or, if they don’t get their way, they’ll shut down the government.”

These Republicans, he said, “seem to believe that if they can gum up the works and make this law fail, they’ll somehow be sticking it to me. But they’d just be sticking it to you.”

A number of Republican leaders, including 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have warned that any effort to defund the law or shut down the government is risky politics. Health analysts say it isn’t practical to defund the law because many of the contracts to private companies involved in its implementation will go forward regardless.

Republican Address

In today’s Republican radio and Internet address, Representative Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia called on Obama to support a House-passed bill to delay the law’s individual mandate, a linchpin of the measure that requires most Americans to carry health insurance.

Citing the postponement of other provisions, Capito said delaying the individual mandate “would only be fair.”

Norquist said Republicans in Congress should attach a provision to delay the law’s implementation to legislation to finance the government for the federal budget cycle that starts Oct. 1, or attach that delay to a bill to increase the nation’s borrowing limit, which will be necessary sometime in November.

“Then the president decides whether he wants to shut the government down,” he said. “I tend to think there won’t be a government shutdown.”

Sequestration Issue

Norquist, an influential voice among anti-tax Republicans, also said Republicans won’t yield on the sequestration of federal spending that has limited defense and other areas of the government. The 10-year budget plan is the only tool in place to keep a check on growing government spending, he said.

He said that lawmakers complaining that sequestration is impairing national security -- who include Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- are out of touch with the party’s prevailing view.

Senate Democrats want to replace the automatic, across-the-board reductions with a mix of spending cuts and tax revenue. House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, has said Congress would need to find “significant cuts” to replace the sequester, and that his party also would want changes in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

The White House Office of Management and Budget, which enforces the spending cuts, has projected the caps in 2014 would be $967.4 billion for security and non-security spending unless the sequester is repealed.

Immigration Debate

On immigration policy, with Congress returning from recess in September to resume debate over a measure that has cleared the Senate, Norquist predicted that the Republican-led House will ultimately pass legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

“Within the next nine to 12 months, I believe, yes, that you’ll get a bill that has serious border security,” an expanded version of a guest-worker program and a pathway to citizenship, said Norquist. These elements are part of the Senate bill.

The political consequences for Republicans are too great for the legislative effort to fail, he said.

“It would be unwise for the modern Republican Party to come across as hostile to immigration,” he said. “That has been the losing position in American history for 200 years.”

The Senate bill that passed in June, with support of 14 Republicans and all of the chamber’s Democrats, represents the most significant rewrite of immigration law in a generation. House leaders have said they won’t take up the Senate version, choosing to instead pass piecemeal immigration-related measures.

2016 Prospects

Republicans have a number of strong potential 2016 presidential candidates, said Norquist, especially Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. He’s “done incredible things,” which include taking on “the labor union bosses,” Norquist said. Walker also “has cut spending, has been pro-growth,” he said.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has rankled some Republicans by supporting Obama on federal hurricane funding among other issues, would also be a strong contender if he vowed not to raise taxes, said Norquist.

Christie has refused to sign a Norquist-created pledge not to increase federal levies.

As for Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, the party’s 2012 vice presidential candidate and chairman of the House Budget Committee, Norquist said he expects him to continue serving in the legislative chamber.

“He’s young enough, he can run for president any time over the next 20 years,” Norquist said.

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