House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy walks into a meeting with the House Republican Conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 13, 2013.
Larry Downing/Reuters

Looking ahead, House GOP leader eyes ACA repeal (yes, again)

Earlier this year, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was fairly candid in his assessment of why House Republicans struggled so badly in the 2018 midterms, in which the GOP lost its majority. Confirming what the evidence suggested, McCarthy privately told a group of donors that the defeats could be blamed on the party’s failed health care gambit in 2017.

McCarthy, who helped push his own members to vote for a far-right health care bill that ultimately failed in the Senate, conceded the party was vulnerable after voting to strip Americans with pre-existing conditions of their protections, “and that was the defining issue and the most important issue in the race.”

Seven months later, House Republicans huddled in Baltimore to begin laying out a plan for the 2020 elections, and as the Washington Post reported, McCarthy and the rest of the House GOP leadership are planning to do the same thing over again, expecting a different result.

Meeting for their annual legislative retreat here nearly nine months into the minority, top GOP officials couldn’t help but raise matters such as health care and skyrocketing budget deficits that bedeviled the party before last year’s House Democratic midterm sweep.

If Trump is reelected, the GOP recaptures the House and holds the Senate, the president and Republicans said they would try again to scrap the 2010 law that has provided coverage for tens of millions of Americans and ensured health care for those with preexisting medical conditions.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) added, “Health care is an important issue for us to lean in on.”

Is it?

Remember, by Kevin McCarthy’s own estimation, his party is in the minority right now because of the GOP’s health care crusade. Republicans are now in the process of coming up with a plan that voters will like so much that they’ll put the party back in the majority.

And to that end, Republican leaders are turning their attention to … another health care crusade.

This strikes me as a flawed plan. The Affordable Care Act is rather popular, and after nearly a decade, much of the country has grown to support and rely on the reform law’s benefits. Republican alternatives to “Obamacare” have been regressive, unpopular, and unable to match the party’s bold promises about better coverage at a lower price, which is why Democrats used the issue as a cudgel to bludgeon GOP candidates in the most recent elections.

The more the 2020 cycle is focused on health care, the happier Democrats will be.