Republican Rep. Mo Brooks said Thursday that protests at town halls around the country might prevent Republican lawmakers from repealing the Affordable Care Act."I'll tell you, Toni, there are a, in my opinion, a significant number of congressmen who are being impacted by these kinds of protests and their spine is a little bit weak," the Alabama congressman said in an interview on "The Morning Show with Toni & Gary" on WBHP 800 Alabama radio. "And I don't know if we're going to be able to repeal Obamacare now because these folks who support Obamacare are very active, they're putting pressure on congressman and there's not a counter-effort to steal the spine of some of these congressmen in tossup districts around the country."
Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been watching the health care fight from retirement, and he's come to his conclusion: his party is likely to fail.Speaking at a health care conference in Orlando this week, Boehner -- who held dozens of ACA repeal votes against his better instincts -- said the existing law is likely to remain largely intact, despite Republican dominance. "Most of the framework of the Affordable Care Act," he said, "that's going to be there."The former Speaker added that his party will continue to struggle to agree among themselves on an alternative, and conceded many of the reform law's most popular provisions are now likely irreversible.Of course, Boehner is no longer on the front lines of the conflict. Perhaps Republicans who are still in the thick of the fight have a different perspective about the state of the fight? Perhaps not.
To be sure, Brooks wants to repeal the law -- a point he emphasized during the interview -- but the far-right Alabaman nevertheless sees the fight slipping away. He added yesterday that Congress "may not even" vote to repeal the law. "We don't have the votes in Congress to pass a repeal bill, in part because of what these people are doing," Brooks concluded."These people," in this case, refers to ACA proponents who've made their voices heard.It's worth pausing to appreciate the profound impact progressive activists have had over a very short period of time. As recently as November, many observers saw Obamacare's demise as a foregone conclusion. The question was less about whether the Republican-led government would uproot the existing health care system and more about what they'd put in its place. The speculation focused almost entirely on just how many Americans would be left behind by GOP policymaking.And yet, here we are. A variety of factors have contributed to the GOP's challenges, most notably their inability to craft a coherent alternative of their own, but the backlash from "Obamacare" beneficiaries caught Republicans completely off-guard, and fundamentally changed the nature of the process. Congressional Democrats have said and done all the right things, but it's the pressure from the grassroots that moved the debate in a progressive direction.Republican leaders were operating from the mistaken assumption that the public would back their play, since the ACA seemed unpopular. But with the public stepping up and speaking out, demanding that Republicans not take their families' health security away, the tide has turned.