The memo distributed to House Republicans this week was concise and blunt, listing talking points and marching orders: "Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance." "Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs." "The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk." "Continue Collecting Constituent Stories." The document, the product of a series of closed-door strategy sessions that began in mid-October, is part of an increasingly organized Republican attack on the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature legislative initiative. Republican strategists say that over the next several months, they intend to keep Democrats on their heels through a multilayered, sequenced assault.
At last count, House Republicans have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, in whole or in part, 46 times. It's become something of a punch-line to a dispiriting joke about a post-policy party whose sole goal appears to be delaying or eliminating health care benefits for millions of Americans.
Looking ahead, the crusade is only going to intensify.
Remember shortly after the 2012 elections, when Republicans were reeling after national defeats and stressing the need for "rebranding"? When House Speaker John Boehner told a national television audience, "Obamacare is the law of the land"?
Well, forget it.
Looking over the memo, literally called the "House Republican Playbook," it's hard not to notice there are no credible policy goals anywhere on the horizon. Indeed, GOP lawmakers have no intention of even trying to improve the health care system. They don't expect to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They don't intend to unveil a health care plan of their own. They don't actually intend to do any substantive work on the issue at all.
Rather, what the House Republican majority has in mind is an "assault" featuring nothing but complaints and anecdotes.
In other words, for the party that admits to prioritizing "messaging" above all, the point isn't to govern; the point is to host Whine Fest 2014.
Sorry, proponents of immigration reform, the GOP majority has a party planned and your issue isn't invited.
For what it's worth, some of the criticisms may have merit -- apparently there's some kind of trouble with the health care website? -- but the "House Republican Playbook" is filled with a lot of nonsense. "Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance"? The number of Americans who will go from being covered to being uncovered by the Affordable Care Act is zero.
"Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs"? Reality shows literally the exact opposite.
Of course, when it comes to "keeping Democrats on their heels through a multilayered, sequenced assault," facts are irrelevant.
There is, however, one thing the "Playbook" doesn't account for: what happens if the website gets fixed and people start liking "Obamacare"? Republicans are counting on the current political landscape remaining the same indefinitely, which may prove to be a mistake if the system starts to improve.