For the first time in a long time, when it comes to the health care debate, Democrats had a spring in their step yesterday, while Republicans “found themselves in a new position: on the defensive.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), for example, faced questions anew yesterday about his party’s plans to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, despite its recent enrollment successes. “The president can go out there and tout about all the people he’s signed up,” he said. “Our job is to show the American people we have better solutions, and we’re working to build a consensus to do that. And when we have something to talk about, we’ll show you.”
Note, it was about two months ago that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va..) vowed, “This year, we will rally around an alternative to Obamacare and pass it on the floor of the House.” That’s now effectively been downgraded to, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
But Boehner did get one thing right: it is, in fact, Republicans’ job to demonstrate that they “have better solutions.” That’s generally what opposition parties are for.
The trouble is, the Speaker hasn’t followed through on what he perceives his “job” to be. Where are these “better solutions” of which he speaks? Because this won’t cut it.
In this vein, the House is scheduled to vote this week on a proposal that would repeal the law’s definition of a “full-time employee” as anyone who works 30 hours or more. Boehner described the rule as “a significant barrier to job growth and higher wages.”
The vote on this measure is expected this afternoon, though if GOP leaders see it as an example of their “better solutions,” they’re mistaken.
This first came up in February, when House Republicans said they’d “fix” the Affordable Care Act by changing the definition of a full-time work week from 30 hours to 40 hours. They did not, however, think through the policy implications of their idea.
An analysis of the bill, released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation, found that it would cause 1 million people to lose their employer-based insurance coverage. The report projected that more than 500,000 of them would end up getting coverage through Medicaid, the Children’s Health Care Program or the Obamacare exchanges. The rest, CBO and JCT said, would become uninsured.The legislation would also lower the amount the federal government collects in penalties from businesses who don’t abide by the employer mandate. As a result, the report found, the deficit would go up by $74 billion over 10 years.
As Jonathan Cohn explained, “The Congressional Budget Office just taught the Republican Party a lesson. Governing is hard…. [T]hat’s the reality Obamacare’s critics are never willing to confront. They’re great at attacking Obamacare. But they’re lousy at coming up with alternatives that look better by comparison. There’s a reason for that. The downsides of Obamacare are real, but, in many cases, they make possible the upsides. Take away the former and the latter go away, too.”
How did Republicans respond to the discouraging CBO report, which found that their idea would likely lead to more Americans seeing their hours cut, more Americans losing their coverage, and a higher deficit? By ignoring the CBO’s findings.
Too often, Republicans’ health care proposals aren’t about policy; they’re about politics. This legislation isn’t intended to improve the system; it’s intended to send an ideological message.
It’s exactly what one expects from a post-policy party.