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EDITORIAL: No escape from Obamacare

Republicans plan their usual retreat from confrontation

- - Thursday, September 26, 2013

Americans want relief from Obamacare, but they probably won't get it. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas tried to shame his colleagues out of the bad health care idea — for 21 hours — but senators by act of Congress have no shame. The White House isn't budging from the Oct. 1 implementation date for Obamacare. This puts House conservatives in a pickle of considerable size.

There's a genetic shortage of backbone in Republican congressmen. The senators could not summon the courage to play the game with President Obama, to threaten a shutdown against his vow to never yield. Speaker John A. Boehner and his circle of leaders are looking now for the next best concession they can get from the White House. The most likely candidate is a one-year moratorium on the individual mandate, to accompany the administration's yearlong delay of the employer mandate. But the president probably figures that if the Republicans wilted once, they'll wilt again.

The individual mandate is what forces all Americans to enroll in an government-approved health care plan under threat of penalty. The individual and employer mandates are central to the takeover of health care, enabling the bureaucrats to control insurance policies, forcing everyone to pay for the abortions and birth control devices of others. Without enforcement, everyone could go about their business without the government meddling in their underwear and medicine chests.

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who backed Mr. Cruz, proposes to bring the issue closer to home. He wants to repeal the Obamacare exemption for members of Congress and their staffs, requiring congressmen and their helpers to join the Obamacare exchanges with everybody else. "If we put that in the mix," Mr. Vitter told Fox News, "I think that would create significant leverage for at least a one-year delay because that's how the establishment would put off their personal pain." Even Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, likes Mr. Vitter's idea.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky wants to go still further, requiring all federal employees to join the exchanges, definitely including Chief Justice John Roberts. A majority of the Supreme Court was ready to declare Obamacare unconstitutional until Mr. Roberts bailed, and found the English words he could torture into describing the individual mandate as a "tax." We're sure he wants to do the right thing by suffering the consequences he prescribed for everyone else.

There will be enough misery for everyone. The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday released data on next year's insurance premiums. The White House was desperate to find something it could claim was a cost reduction, so the department compared 2014 costs to a "projection" of 2016 costs. It's imaginary, but they found the reduction. "With that 'back to the future' logic," says Rep. Fred Upton of the House Commerce Committee, "you would need a time-traveling DeLorean [automobile] to avoid Obamacare's rate shock."

A more straightforward comparison of 2013 to 2014 rates performed by Mr. Upton's committee shows that individuals and businesses would pay from 10 percent to 122 percent more, on average. Steeper increases are possible and maybe likely, as one family in Kentucky has already learned. The family's monthly premium tripled, from $333 to $965.

Republicans who are afraid of the White House ought to imagine what a $600 monthly increase can do to a family getting by paycheck-to-paycheck in a miserable economy. By "going along to get along" with the president, Republicans will share responsibility for what happens to these struggling families. The Republicans will deserve the day of reckoning.