Arminda Murillo, 54, reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, Calif., March 27, 2014.
Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

ACA dead-enders find themselves alone

It was just a few weeks ago when House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) conceded repealing the Affordable Care Act “isn’t the answer.” The same week, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chair of the House Republican Conference, agreed that ACA framework would persist and future changes would stay within the structure of the law. When House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) unveiled his party’s spring schedule, health care wasn’t mentioned.
 
The far-right was not at all pleased. But if conservatives were disappointed in April, they must be even more depressed now. As Igor Volsky explained:
Since the Obama administration announced that the Affordable Care Act has enrolled at least 8 million people in health care coverage and polls have shown that the ranks of the uninsured are in fact shrinking, the GOP’s four-year campaign against the health care law appears to be losing steam.
That’s putting it charitably.
 
Republicans promised to turn Sylvia Burwell’s confirmation hearings into an anti-Obamacare spectacle, but yesterday, they failed to even try. Republicans held a hearing with insurance-industry witnesses who were supposed to tell the GOP what it wanted to hear, but instead the insurers tore Republican arguments to shreds at their own hearing.
 
After months of GOP assurances that 2014 would be all-Obamacare-attacks, all-the-time, Republicans have suddenly discovered what they really care about are manufactured “scandals” and conspiracy theories that Congress chose to ignore right up until the Affordable Care Act looked successful.
 
For ACA opponents, the last two months have been the worst since the reform package became law four years ago – which is especially bad news for the right since these are the two months that matter most.
 
How quickly has the tide turned? Even vulnerable, red-state Democrats facing tough re-election bids have begun emphasizing their support for major ACA provisions.
 
Greg Sargent reported yesterday:
Democratic Senator Kay Hagan is one of the most vulnerable Dems in the country, and her problems are said to be largely about Obamacare, thanks to the millions of dollars Americans for Prosperity has spent on ads attacking her over the law.
 
So it’s curious that Hagan today made an aggressive case for a major pillar of the law that’s supposedly on the verge of ending her Senatorial career: The Medicaid expansion.
 
Or, at least, it’s curious if you haven’t been paying attention, and aren’t aware that multiple Dems – even vulnerable ones – have been making a strong case for the expansion, and using it to draw a contrast with GOP opponents, even if Obamacare is not the centerpiece of their campaigns.
The conventional wisdom for months has been that Hagan and Democrats in her position would have to be insane to bring up Obamacare and tout its virtues, but the political winds have changed direction – Hagan, with an eye towards her far-right GOP challenger back in North Carolina, went out of her way yesterday to emphasize her support for Medicaid expansion.
 
This comes two weeks after Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), who’s in the same electoral boat as Hagan, embraced Medicaid expansion with equal vigor.
 
None of this was supposed to be possible. Republicans had decided – and much of the Beltway had accepted as fact – that the only political voices willing to talk about the ACA would be GOP candidates on the offensive, highlighting death spirals and failures.
 
That conventional wisdom was wrong and it’s time for the political conversation to catch up. All of the evidence points to a striking success, so much so that Republicans are suddenly eager to change the subject – a development that seemed hard to even imagine a few months ago. For all the chatter about the law’s unpopularity, the fact remains that Obamacare is not only more popular than the Republican repeal fantasy, it’s also more popular than Republicans.
 
Finally, as the circus atmosphere takes hold once on Capitol Hill, observers should ask themselves: is anyone prepared to argue that the GOP’s newfound interest in Benghazi and the IRS would be on the Capitol Hill front-burner if the Affordable Care Act were struggling?
 
The point isn’t that there are no ACA dead-enders out there, make half-hearted demands about “repeal.” The point is they’re isolated and increasingly lonely.
 

Affordable Care Act and Obamacare

ACA dead-enders find themselves alone