To many Americans, the process of proposing, passing and implementing the Affordable Care Act has amounted to a game of political power and survival. This week hardened that perception as one senator and one president ran plays to breath life into Obamacare.
THE BAIT: Responding to Republican jeers that an Obama immigration law would be more akin to swiss cheese than an iron curtain, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) said on Sunday: "There's a simple solution: Let's enact the law this year, but simply not let it actually start 'til 2017, after President Obama's term is over." It was a barbed Bait disguised as a cordial Challenge, and it might have worked had the idea not come from Schumer. Kind of like the global warming bell being rung by Al Gore. House Speaker Boehner ignored the flashy lure; he ran a Pass. But Schumer had caught him anyway. His proposal breathed life into the uncomfy questions: How is the GOP going to win more Hispanics? And when? In 2014 for the midterms? Or 2015 and 2016 for the general?
THE FIAT: As promised in his State of the Union address, Barack Obama used his executive authority to again rewrite the rules of his struggling Affordable Care Act. By executive fiat (and the Fiat influence strategy, too), he gave companies with 50-99 employees another two years to be Obamacare-compliant. Counterplays were fast and furious, like this chiding Label: "If unilateral delays were an Olympic sport, the White House would sweep the gold, silver and bronze," crowed Fred Upton (R-UT), the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McDonnell (R-KY) was more clever, running a Crowd by suggesting, "It's time to extend that exemption to families and individuals -- not just businesses."
THE TRUMP: Speaking of embattled agendas...New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was back in fighting trim this week, running plays like it's 2016 and, somehow, defying his Bridgegate scandal and the pitchforks that are marching on Trenton. His principle play was the Trump, a preempting strategy named for the card game ploy that materialized in two supporting strategies. Speaking at the Economic Club of Chicago, Christie first reminded his obviously right-leaning audience that presidential election winners are seldom perfect. Incredibly, he cited both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Suck it up, and get behind the right candidate, was his point. And get behind me was the unmistakeable hint, a well-run Ping. But to secure his offensive-footing, Christie ran another and equally audacious play: a Recast on the recently invented phrase, Income Inequality, a new favorite of Barack Obama's. "You want income equality? That is mediocrity. Everybody can have an equal, mediocre salary."
As another arctic clipper descends on DC, we are in the dead of winter no doubt, but in politics it is the baiting season, for sure.