Crunch Time: If Republicans Shy Away From Repealing and Replacing Obamacare, What Purpose Do They Serve?

Posted: Mar 01, 2017 1:20 PM

This isn't a fatalistic anti-GOP rant. It's a clarion call for Congressional Republicans from across the center-right spectrum to follow through on their endlessly-recited vow to voters over the course of four election cycles, three of which they won.  As President Trump again intoned last night, Obamacare must be repealed and replaced.  Put bluntly and accurately, the law is failing. And in spite of the Official Media Narrative du jour, it's not magically popular all of a sudden; most Americans favor a massive overhaul of the collapsing status quo, and big majorities are open to the core elements of the GOP's reputed replacement plan. Many Republicans argued -- correctly -- for years that they couldn't uproot the law so long as a Democrat occupied the Oval Office. But now voters have handed the GOP a unified federal government. It's time to act. There are no good excuses anymore. A failure to repeal Obamacare would be almost totally attributable to Republican incoherence, disunity, fecklessness, or some combination thereof. Democrats may obstruct all policy solutions (at their political peril, incidentally), but Republicans control the agenda. Which is precisely how most Americans want it to be. Conservatives have been demanding results, and their elected officials are finally in a place to deliver. The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein -- who has written extensively about the Obamacare mess and the need for a constructive alternative -- throws down a gauntlet in his latest column, challenging Republicans to put up or shut up:

Republicans who now have the power to deliver on their central promise of the past seven years — repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a market-based alternative — are facing a gut-check moment. As they fear the potential political backlash, they must ask themselves: Do Republicans love freedom as much as Democrats love big government? Democrats took a big risk to expand the role of government in healthcare. During the 13-month process that produced Obamacare, there were many freak out moments...[they] persevered. Ultimately, amid their differences, they saw a once in a lifetime opportunity to make progress toward the dream of universal health coverage that had eluded them for more than a half a century. Their leaders, from President Obama, to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, kept the pressure on, twisted arms, cajoled, and communicated at every opportunity that inaction was not an option. Dozens of Democrats ultimately cast votes in favor of a bill that they knew was more likely than not to mean the end of their political careers.

Many of those reticent Democrats' worst fears were realized. They lost seats in droves in 2010, and the political bleeding still hasn't stopped. Republicans have gained more than 1,000 legislative seats nationwide at the state and federal level since Obamacare passed. Nevertheless, many liberals will to this day insist that it was all worth it because a critical, elusive part of their statist ideological project was achieved. Now it's "gut check" time for the GOP, Klein concludes:

Do Republicans believe anything they've been saying? Do they think Obamacare is an abomination, that kills jobs, drives up costs, erodes the quality of coverage, and stifles innovation? Do they believe Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced, as they have insisted in every campaign they have run since 2010? If they do, they have a duty to follow through on the promises to which they owe their majorities, no matter the political risks...Republicans actually have a one-time opportunity to do what they've long promised — which is to fully repeal Obamacare, with all its taxes, and spending, and regulatory overreach — and to replace it with a market-based system that provides more choices, lowers costs, and puts patients in charge of their own healthcare. If they get this done, even if they lose their majorities, it will have been worth it. They can say that when they had power, they used it to advance something they believed in and made a real difference. If they flub this, then we know what will happen. Democrats will eventually take power again, and they'll have much of the foundation of Obamacare left to build on.

As I mentioned before, Republicans at least have an entirely valid claim of a public mandate on this course of action -- very unlike the Obamacare Democrats, who rammed through a bill opposed by a clear and enduring majority of voters. Democrats can point to cherry-picked polling data points to put a scare into their colleagues across the aisle. Republicans can point right back at other polls, of course, but they can also cite concrete election results secured over eight years. Obamacare hasn't been a side issue. Republicans didn't win despite their position. It was a central issue, and they won because of it.  While Obama remained in office, representing an impenetrable backstop to thwart progress, I argued that some conservatives' "don't blink" slogans in support of fanciful repeal schemes were unrealistic and irresponsible.  But now is the moment for that call to focus and fortitude.  If Republicans fail to follow through, their base will have no reason to trust them again, and Obamacare will continue to deteriorate while harming millions of Americans.  It's time to settle on a consensus strategy, even if it's viewed as imperfect by various wings of the party, link arms, and act.  And then fight like hell to make a forceful case to the American people that it was the right thing to do.  I'll leave you with this detailed statistical rebuttal to Democrats' demagogic insistence that ending Obamacare would cost tens of thousands of lives.  People will die!  Not according to data, particularly when examining the ramifications of the law's Medicaid expansion:

Does this mean that zero human beings obtained coverage that helped attain life-saving treatment under the Obamacare regime?  Of course not.  But the 'Obamacare repeal will kill people' argument relies on the bogus assumption that it would be supplanted with...nothing.  Perhaps the more accurate frantic claim would be, "if Obamacare is repealed and Democrats use the filibuster to ensure that no alternative solutions can be implemented, some people might die."  And liberals who object to the empirical case advanced in the piece above on the basis that individual anecdotes (some of which are true and powerful) are more important than data should be reminded that there are millions of counter-examples of real people and real families being harmed by the law.  More, in fact, than the law's success stories.  That's a consistent and damning indictment of a massively expensive and coercive experiment that was marketed as an unvarnished positive for all consumers.  Republicans can and must keep their promise and undo this mess.

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