For GOP and health care, it’s all or nothing

For GOP and health care, it's all or nothing
For GOP and health care, it's all or nothing
Getty Images

We talked earlier about House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who thought he was being clever. He unveiled a bill that would invest in high-risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions, but pay for it by gutting the critical provisions of the Affordable Care Act. For Cantor, it was a political calculation – instead of just voting to repeal “Obamacare” over and over again, why not try a scheme that gives the appearance of governing?

House Republicans disappointed Cantor and rejected his plan. And what might they want instead? To vote to repeal “Obamacare” over and over again.

House conservatives are clamoring for a floor vote on a full repeal of the 2010 healthcare overhaul, saying that freshman Republicans need an opportunity to tell their constituents they tried to scrap the law.

You read that right – House Republicans are afraid their constituents might not realize they tried to repeal the health care reform legislation unless GOP leaders bring it to the floor again.

Estimates vary, but by my count, congressional Republicans have voted 39 times to repeal all or some of the Affordable Care Act. Do House members seriously believe a 40th time is necessary to help get the message through to the public?

To be sure, Cantor’s policy wasn’t a good plan, at least on the substance, but it at least had the benefit of being clever. If you didn’t look too close, you might think Republicans were kinda sorta trying to help people, which is why this bill was seen by Cantor as so important to his rebranding initiative.

But as it turns out, the nuance was lost on the far-right, which prefers attacking with blunt objects. Don’t try to undermine “Obamacare” with subtlety and poll-tested solutions, the argument goes, just repeatedly try to kill it, no matter how ridiculous it makes Republicans look.

Care to guess who’s leading the charge on this approach?

If you said, Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) office, you’re right.

Three years after Obamacare was signed into law, Republicans on Capitol Hill are locked in an unusually bitter intraparty fight over whether to fix what they see as problems with the law, or to insist only on the unlikely dream of fully repealing the health care law.

The breach became painfully visible to conservative insiders on a private listserv this week when a top aide to Senator Ted Cruz exchanged a series of terse and combative emails – obtained by BuzzFeed – over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s attempt to change the law’s treatment of patients with pre-existing conditions.

The emails, which were circulated on the “Repeal Coalition” listserv of activists and congressional staff, show a clear division inside the Republican Party’s powerful conservative wing – a division over substance, and strategy. On one side are conservative groups like Americans for Tax Reform, pushing hard for the legislation; while on the other Sen. Ted Cruz’ top staffer, the group Heritage Action and others insisted Republicans stay with a simple message: “kill the bill.”

A Cruz aide told his colleagues last week, the message behind Cantor’s ploy “sucks.” He added, “We oppose Obamacare. Period. We will repeal it. Period.”

The far-right’s approach, ironically, is exactly what Democrats are hoping for from their rivals. The White House and other supporters of the reform law want this to be an entirely binary fight – those who want to preserve and expand vs. those who want to destroy and go backwards. The Affordable Care Act’s champions may struggle with smaller fights over minor provisions, but so long as Republicans remain focused and committed to a dead-end goal – full repeal, nothing else – the fight is relatively easy.

The House can pass a repeal measure 39 times or 390 times; it doesn’t make a difference. It might make far-right lawmakers feel better about themselves to spin their wheels, but the Senate isn’t going to repeal the law, and neither is the White House.

If Republicans intend to keep banging their head against that wall, it seems Democrats are more inclined to find that amusing, not intimidating.

Ted Cruz, Eric Cantor, Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Health Care Policy and House Republicans

For GOP and health care, it's all or nothing