It took President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress 14 months to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010. In about five times as many months, congressional Republicans have produced the following: a set of warmed-over talking points that fits on less than two printed pages. Yes, it's true. More than seven years into Obama's presidency -- an era during which health care reform has been one of the defining issues in domestic politics -- a group of GOP lawmakers hand-picked by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released a "mission statement" on Thursday. It is 251 words long.
Congressional Republicans, by their own admission, do not have a health care reform plan to offer as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act. But, as of yesterday, they do have a memo, which may one day become a plan, which may one day become an "Obamacare" rival.
And if that sounds silly, that's because it is. The Huffington Post reported yesterday:
This isn't an exaggeration. The House Republicans' Task Force on Health Care Reform released a formal memo yesterday with a "mission statement," which is roughly half the length of the blog post you're now reading, and which is followed by a series of vague goals that appear to have no substantive meaning whatsoever.
Americans will be delighted to learn, for example, that the GOP task force intends to one day have a policy that will "empower every American with the ability to gain access to coverage that is affordable and portable." Republicans, once they have a plan, also want to "protect the quality of care for all patients -- including those with pre-existing conditions."
To achieve these goals, the party's task force intends to explore "innovations in employer-provided health care coverage," while "reforming broken insurance markets."
I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and I'm sure a small army of Republican staffers on the Hill worked very hard to come up with a brief document filled with meaningless platitudes, but GOP officials have been working on a health care plan for more than six years. As a result of these efforts, Republicans have come up with a policy-free memo?
Marco Rubio blasted Donald Trump last night for not having a substantive health care policy, which was both true and fair. But maybe it's time to also appreciate the fact that congressional Republicans don't have a substantive health care policy either, and unlike Trump, they've been trying to come up with one since 2009.
As regular readers may recall, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was asked last month why he was moving forward with a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act before the Republican alternative is ready. The Republican leader told reporters with a smile, "Just wait."
If it took the House GOP six years to come up with a vague mission statement, we're going to be waiting a very, very long time.