There's an ongoing debate among Republicans about what it means to repeal Obamacare. Does it mean abolishing the whole thing? Does it mean nullifying just the most troublesome parts? Repealing and simultaneously enacting a new set of reforms? Or repealing and then starting a new debate on what reforms to make?
If the GOP wins control of the House this November on the promise to repeal Obamacare -- what do they do? Even if they repeal Obamacare, Barack Obama will still be president and the Senate will still be the Senate, meaning that, absent a huge shift in the political atmosphere, the chance of final success will be small. What then?
That was a topic of much discussion during a conference call last week among House Republicans. First, of course, they have to win control of the House. If that happens, they are united in their resolve to repeal Obamacare and pass in its place a series of measures addressing the public's most pressing healthcare concerns. But since they know it is highly unlikely they could overcome an Obama veto, they are also working on provisional plans to use the House's spending power to cut funding for parts of Obamacare before it even comes into existence.
"House Republicans will not rest until we repeal Obamacare lock, stock and barrel," Rep. Mike Pence, head of the House Republican Conference, told me from Arizona, where he had gone to campaign for GOP candidates. "I believe that's the uniform position of the Republican leadership."
"People are livid," Rep. Tom Price, head of the Republican Study Committee, said during a break from campaigning for Republicans in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, North Carolina and New York. "They can't believe what this administration and Pelosi and the gang are doing."
"If we are not unanimous as a conference in being for repeal of 100 percent of Obamacare, then we're fractured as a party," Rep. Steve King, a favorite of the Tea Party movement, told me from Minnesota, where he was appearing at a rally with Tea Party superstar Rep. Michele Bachmann.
At the same time, the lawmakers are aware of what Pence calls the "rabbit snare" of a repeal-only strategy. "We repeal and start over," Pence emphasized. "Don't forget the 'and.'"