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 the entire 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 law that Obama signed in 2010. “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.
Yet the White House opposes any delay 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.
A number of Republican Party 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’s not practical to defund the law because many of the contracts to private companies involved in its implementation will go forward regardless.
Norquist said Republican leaders should attach a provision to delay 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.”
Norquist, an influential voice among anti-tax Republicans, also said the party won’t yield on the sequestration of federal spending that has limited defense and other areas of the government. The 10-year 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 — Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — are out of touch with the Republican Party.
With Congress returning from recess in September to resume debate over an immigration bill that has cleared the Senate, Norquist predicts that the Republican-led House will ultimately pass legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrations 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 passed by the Senate and a pathway to citizenship, said Norquist.
The political consequences for Republicans are too great for the 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.”
In June the Senate passed a bill, with support of 14 Republicans and all of the chamber’s Democrats, that represents the most significant rewrite of immigration law in a generation. House leaders have said they will not take up the Senate version, choosing to instead pass piecemeal immigration-related measures.
There are a number of strong 2016 Republican presidential candidates, said Norquist, especially Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. He’s “done incredible things in turning a blue state red in Wisconsin, has taken on the labor union bosses, has cut spending, has been pro-growth,” said Norquist.
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 vice presidential candidate in 2012, Norquist said he expects him to continue serving in the House.
“He’s young enough, he can run for president any time over the next 20 years,” Norquist said.
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