Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), trying to launch a comeback bid in New Hampshire, has based much of his campaign on his opposition to the Affordable Care Act. That's not too terribly surprising -- his opposition to "Obamacare" played a role in electing him to the Senate in the first place.
But to simply oppose the ACA is to paint with too broad a brush. What, exactly, does the former senator believe? Greg Sargent flagged
over the weekend in which the Republican fleshed out his rather unique perspective.
"I've always felt that people should either get some type of health care options, or pay for it with a nice competitive fee. That's all great. I believe it in my heart. In terms of preexisting conditions, catastrophic coverage, covering kids -- whatever we want to do, we can do it. "As a matter of fact, in New Hampshire, I would encourage everybody to do a New Hampshire plan that works for New Hampshire, that deals with individual freedoms, and doesn't have mandates put on by bureaucrats in Washington ... a plan that is good for New Hampshire ... can include the Medicaid expansion folks who need that care and coverage."
He then added that the law is a disaster, with goals he "absolutely" supports.
Remember, Brown has had four years to come up with a clear position on health care policy. Apparently, this is what he's come up with.
In the former senator's vision, consumers would either get coverage through the government or be able to buy private coverage at an affordable price. People with pre-existing conditions would be protected, as would young people. And Medicaid expansion should be part of the mix.
I'm curious if Scott Brown understands that what he described as his position -- the one he's "always" supported -- is actually a basic summary of what the Affordable Care Act is.
In other words, it would appear the former GOP lawmaker is both for and against "Obamacare" at the same time.
It's a rather extreme example, to be sure, but Brown isn't the only Republican struggling to straddle this fence.
Brown's comments are the latest in a trend we've already seen: Republican Senate candidates endorsing Obamacare's general goals, while claiming the law should be done away with and replaced with something that does some of the same things. North Carolina GOP Senate candidate Thom Tillis says that of course he supports protecting people with preexisting conditions, just not with Obamacare. Tom Cotton and Terri Lynn Land, the GOP Senate candidates in Arkansas and Michigan, are both refusing to take a clear position on the Medicaid expansions in their states even as they mouth nice noises about expanding health care to those who need it. This strategy -- call for repeal to keep the GOP base happy, while insisting on support for the law's goals, to avoid alienating moderates -- relies on keeping the "replace" part vague.
It's a tough needle to thread, isn't it? The Affordable Care Act isn't popular, but its contents are popular -- apparently even with Scott Brown -- and full-scale repeal enjoys very little public support. Republicans, especially those in competitive contests, want to side with the American mainstream, but it's left them tied in policy pretzels, no longer sure what to say.
What do they intend to replace the ACA with? How many consumers would lose coverage if Republicans have their way? What's wrong with Medicaid expansion? Why would they oppose the ACA's most popular provisions? How does one endorse ACA goals while condemning the ACA policy? A growing number of Republican candidates and lawmakers, once so confident about running against "Obamacare," suddenly have no idea how to answer these questions.
It led Ezra Klein to conclude
: "The American people don't want Obamacare. However, they like what's in Obamacare. And they don't like it when Republicans try to get rid of Obamacare. Brown's position shows Republicans a way out: a rebranding of Obamacare, accompanied, perhaps, by some vague tweaks and changes to be named later. Fauxbamacare, in other words."
I'm less convinced than Ezra that this is a credible "way out," but I really wish I'd come up with "Fauxbamacare."