Hobson's Choice for Haslam: On ObamaCare, He's Screwed Either Way

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Will Gov. Bill Haslam say hell no to ObamaCare or will he find the courage to make a stand against his party’s right wing? It’s the major political question of the day.

Pointing out it’s the only reasonable thing to do as a policy matter, Tom Humphrey thinks Haslam’s about to accept Medicaid’s expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Frank Cagle says the soul of the Tennessee Republican Party is at stake. He asks, can the supermajority govern responsibly or will the crackpot caucus prevail?

We debated all this as we wet our whistles the other night at Fleet Street Pub in the world famous Printers Alley. We decided Haslam’s in a tight spot now and ordered another round.

If he recommends expanding Medicaid, he can count on Ron Ramsey and Beth Harwell to help try to talk lawmakers into going along. But in the final weeks of this year’s session, how much enthusiasm could the speakers work up for pressuring Republicans to vote for ObamaCare when that means making spectacular flip-flops and incurring the wrath of their party’s hardliners?

In the Senate, assuming all seven Democrats vote to expand Medicaid, the governor still would need 10 Republicans. Can you name 10 who would do it? We couldn’t.

Politically, in fact, it’s a lose-lose proposition for Haslam. If he says no to ObamaCare, he denies medical care and financial security to tens of thousands of the working poor. At the same time, he hammers hospitals financially, causing economic downturns in little towns over the state and handing a great issue to his Democratic reelection challenger. This is the guy who claims the economy is his No. 1 priority?

If he says yes to ObamaCare, he alienates the Republican base and then probably loses in the legislature anyway, showing his impotence as a leader and proving once and for all his party is captive to the crazy. Which would you choose?

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