Conservatism has been described as the belief that no one should be the first person to do anything … and House Republicans are taking that seriously. (More)

Yesterday Talking Points Memo’s Brian Beutler revealed the House GOP plan for dealing with both Obamacare and immigration reform. It might have been copied from a Springfield, Oregon high school basketball game plan.

“A rickety old stool”

The first House Republican strategy proposes to authorize President Obama’s announced one-year delay of Obamacare’s small business mandate in a bill that also delays the individual mandate for one year. The idea, one that Beutler calls “shrewder” than yet another doomed repeal vote, is to force House Democrats to choose between seeming to favor businesses over workers by imposing the individual mandate while the business mandate is delayed … and voting for an implementation delay that might bring down the entire 2010 Affordable Care Act. As Speaker John Boehner reportedly put it to his caucus yesterday:

The president delayed Obamacare’s employer mandate, but he hasn’t delayed Obamacare’s individual mandate that impacts individuals and families. This is indefensible. Is it fair for the president of the United States to give American businesses an exemption from his health care law’s mandates, without giving the same exemption to the rest of America? Hell no, it’s not fair.

We should be thinking about giving the rest of America the same exemption that Obama last week gave businesses. There’s a rickety old stool holding up this entire law. The legs of that stool are the individual parts of Obamacare – the individual mandate, the employer mandate, IPAB, etc. The president himself kicked one of those legs out from under the stool last week when he delayed the employer mandate. Acting to give the same delay to the rest of America … would be removing another leg from the rickety stool that’s propping Obamacare up.

In fact the small business mandate delay is not a key part of Obamacare. President Obama and many Democrats would rather that more workers moved to individual health insurance through the federal exchanges, rather than being tied to their employers’ plans. That would both make it easier for workers to change jobs or start their own businesses, and ease the eventual transition away from employer-based coverage to a truly comprehensive national health care plan.

But without the individual mandate, the exchanges would be at risk for adverse selection, with too few young, healthy Americans paying premiums. Republicans know adverse selection is the best way to break a universal health care system. Delaying the individual mandate may force the federal exchanges to allow higher premiums, damaging the Obamacare brand and – they hope – building enough popular support to force its repeal.

“The American people expect….”

Political leaders love to cite the will of “the American people,” and Speaker Boehner did that yesterday in announcing his plan to kill immigration reform:

It’s clear from everything that I’ve seen and read over the last couple of weeks that the American people expect that we’ll have strong border security in place before we begin the process of legalizing and fixing our legal immigration system.

In fact polls consistently show strong support for a path to citizenship. While those same polls show support for increased border security, not a single poll shows that “the American people” expect 11 million fellow Americans’ paths to citizenship must wait for a mythical future declaration that our borders are “secure.” Conservatives will never declare that, no matter how many walls we build, how many moats we dig, or how many hungry alligators we keep in the moats.

But this isn’t about what “the American people” want. It’s about delaying any reform until after the 2014 midterms and even past the 2016 presidential election, when Republicans hope to have a stronger political position:

If Republicans take the Senate and hold the House in 2014, they will be in a much better position to pass a sensible immigration bill. At the presidential level in 2016, it would be better if Republicans won more Hispanic voters than they have in the past—but it’s most important that the party perform better among working-class and younger voters concerned about economic opportunity and upward mobility.

In other words, Republicans hope to win with the Sailer Strategy and remain the white party. Comprehensive immigration reform would end any hope for that strategy, so House Republicans want to “delay” it …

… forever, if possible, except for the walls, moats, and hungry alligators.

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Happy Wednesday!