For about three years now, congressional Republicans have sworn up and down that they're hard at work on a health care reform package of their own. It's going to be awesome, they said, and will meet Obamacare's goals without all that unpopular stuff.
Sensible people gave up on actually seeing this vaporware quite a while ago, realizing that "repeal and replace" was a rather pathetic scam. But with the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act due fairly soon, and with the possibility of a Republican White House and a Republican Congress on the horizon, there's renewed interest in what, exactly, GOP policymakers intend to do on the issue.
There was some talk this week that Republicans, fearing a public backlash, would "draw up bills to keep the popular, consumer-friendly portions in place -- like allowing adult children to remain on parents' health care plans until age 26, and forcing insurance companies to provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions." (The interconnectivity of the popular and unpopular parts are generally as lost on Republicans as they are on the general public.)
The GOP's base immediately said this would be outrageous. Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) joined them, making it clear that Republicans intend to kill the whole law, including the parts Americans like, want, and have come to expect.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reiterated Thursday that he wants to repeal all of President Obama's healthcare law if the Supreme Court doesn't toss out the entire statute."We voted to fully repeal the president's healthcare law as one of our first acts as a new House majority, and our plan remains to repeal the law in its entirety," Boehner said to reporters. "Anything short of that is unacceptable."
Let's not brush past too quickly exactly what this means. The only "acceptable" outcome for Romney is one in which tens of millions of Americans lose their health care coverage, seniors pay higher prescription drug costs, small businesses lose their tax breaks, and the deficit goes up by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.
But there's another point that's gone largely forgotten: we've gone from a policy landscape in which Republicans agreed with 80% of Obamacare to one in which Republicans agree with 0% of Obamacare.
No one seems to remember this, but in September 2009, Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany (R), the Republican who delivered the official GOP response to President Obama's speech on health care reform, made an interesting declaration, telling msnbc "about 80%" of the Democratic proposal is acceptable to Republicans.
Soon after, none other than Eric Cantor, now the House Majority Leader, said Republicans and Democrats agree on 80% of the health care reform measures.
Keep in mind, these comments came when the public option was still a key component of the Democratic plan -- which suggests by the time the proposal was being voted on, Republicans liked more than 80% of Obamamcare.
This, of course, leads us to a few questions for Boehner and his cohorts. One, how is it congressional Republicans went from 80% to 0%, when the reform package itself did not move to the left? And two, if Republicans intend to get rid of "the entirety" of the law, including parts that enjoy overwhelming public support, why should voters back GOP candidates?