It’s been nearly three months since House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) declared, “This year, we will rally around an alternative to ObamaCare and pass it on the floor of the House.” Last week House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the plan is being delayed “at least a month.” A month from when? He didn’t say.
ThinkProgress reports that Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) is telling his constituents that his party doesn’t intend “to do anything” on this issue for the rest of the year.
CONSTITUENT: You’ve voted to repeal it approximately 50 times. Had zero votes on a replacement. So my question is, why do you think it is so good to deny seniors on Part D to make them pay more, about $4,000 more for medicine, and people with pre-existing conditions get denied insurance, have 26-year-olds have a harder time getting insurance because they can’t get on their parents’? Why do you think those are good ideas?ROSS: I don’t. And let me tell you, I think one of the most unfortunate things my party did the last three years was not offer an alternative to health care. I’ve always felt that way. I think it’s absurd when I tell people that this isn’t what you should do, but I don’t have an alternative for you…. I wish we had an alternative. For the next six months, we’re going to go into an election knowing that we’re not going to do anything to address health care. Because we’ve gone so far in the last few years saying “no” that we don’t have an alternative to say “yes” to.
It’s not too common to hear House Republicans referring to their own party’s posture on health care as “absurd,” which make Ross’ comments fairly striking on their own.
There’s also the news that Ross is apparently under the impression that his party won’t bother with an ACA alternative at all in 2014, despite literally years of Republican promises to the contrary.
But perhaps most interesting of all was the two-word answer in response to the question from Ross’ constituent: “I don’t.”
The question made a lot of sense: here’s a Republican congressman who voted several dozen times to repeal – either in whole or in part – the Affordable Care Act, including all kinds of popular provisions, benefits, and consumer protections. Why is Ross against them?
He’s not, he says.
It’s part of an increasingly common pitch from congressional Republicans: they share the goals of “Obamacare,” they say, but disagree with how the reform law achieves those goals.
Rhetorically, that’s not a bad idea. Substantively, as Brian Beutler explained, it’s nonsense.
Republicans have replaced an unabashed “full repeal!” mantra with a deluge of weasel words meant to conceal the fact that “repeal” is still the beginning and end of their health-care reform agenda. It’s still the goal – they’re just a little ashamed of it now. And that places an onus on Dems (and reporters and anyone else who believes politicians should own the consequences of their policies) to be extremely explicit about the benefits Obamacare is conferring, and what an unvarnished rendering of GOP health policy would really look like.
This is clearly true of Ross, who went on to tell his constituents how much he likes all kinds of ACA provisions, making it sound as if he were somehow sympathetic to the law he voted to repeal several dozen times.
But real health care policy doesn’t work this way. A policymaker can’t (1) vote to gut the federal health care system; (2) endorse the goals of the federal health care system; (3) talk up the need for a credible alternative; (4) and offer no credible alternative, all at the same time.
It is, as Beutler added, “a grand swindle.”