Even as they talk about pragmatic achievable solutions, though, Republicans also say they are likely to take an early symbolic vote on repeal of the health care law, which would face a certain veto by Mr. Obama. After that showdown, Republicans say, they could move on to more realistic proposals and changes in the law.
Under the circumstances, too much focus on what might happen in a Republican-led Senate is probably premature. The 2014 elections are still three months away and it's hard to say with confidence how various close contests will break.
That said, it's only responsible for Americans to consider the consequences of electoral outcomes. If the public rewards congressional Republicans with control of the upper chamber for the first time since 2006, what can voters expect? Carl Hulse reported that the GOP majority, if it exists, would focus on deficit reduction, the Keystone XL pipeline, and, well, this.
This is presented in a rather matter-of-fact way, but it's worth appreciating how pathetic it is. House Republicans have voted several dozen times to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act, for reasons they can't explain, and without an alternative solution of their own. The House GOP's obsession has become a national punch-line -- these lawmakers know they can't repeal the reform law, but kept doing it anyway, ignoring real work to make themselves feel better.
Senate Republicans have watched this unfold and are now eager to do the exact same thing. GOP senators know they can't eliminate the law, but they want to hold the vote anyway, just to scratch an itch. The party wants power, but still can't quite tell the difference between governing and self-indulgent posturing.
Indeed, at this point, it's not even clear why Republicans hate the ACA quite so much. After all, each of their predictions about failure have turned out to be wrong.
"Obamacare" is reducing the uninsured rate; it's strengthening Medicare; it's helping get healthcare spending under control; and the system itself is costing less than expected. For that matter, rumors of "skyrocketing" premiums never happened.
The right continues to say the ACA is "failing," but the rhetoric is based more on knee-jerk instinct than anything substantive.
So why keep up the pointless repeal crusade? Why make a public vow, before the election, to make the health care system worse, on purpose, while taking benefits away from millions of families? It appears the answer is, Republicans just feel the need to get this out of their system -- even if it doesn't make sense, even if they can't explain it, even if there were adverse consequences for the public if they actually succeeded.
Last week, Greg Sargent found a gem of a quote from Rep. Tom Cotton (R), his party's far-right Senate candidate in Arkansas, telling reporters, "[T]he thing about Obamacare is, it no doubt helped some people. But think about all the people it hurt and the ways it hurt them."
The problem is that only one of those two sentences makes sense. It's nice to hear a very conservative, red-state Republican conceded that there's "no doubt" that the Affordable Care Act is helping people -- an acknowledgement many in the GOP spent years denying -- but if the law is "hurting" so many people, why can't Cotton or his allies actually find these elusive victims?