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The Republicans' subtle retreat from 'Obamacare'
By Steve Benen
If you look closely, you'll notice the sign on the podium not only refers people to a website run by the House Republican Conference, but also to a specific part of the site -- gop.gov/yourstory -- followed by a tagline that reads in all caps, "Our veterans deserve better."
At first blush, that wouldn't seem especially noteworthy, except up until very recently the gop.gov/yourstory website served a very different purpose: it was set up to collect scary stories from people who didn't like the Affordable Care Act. Republicans launched a months-long campaign to collect anecdotal evidence from "Obamacare victims" and this website was intended to be the go-to destination for those adversely affected by the health care reform law.
But the political winds have changed direction. The crusade to find "Obamacare victims" has run its course -- the evidence never materialized -- and House Republicans are ready to give up on the campaign and start collecting other horror stories the party can try to exploit for partisan gain.
The repurposing of a failed website is, however, just a piece of a larger puzzle. As Juliet Eilperin and Robert Costa reported this morning, Republicans suddenly find themselves in "retreat" on health care.
Republican candidates have begun to retreat in recent weeks from their all-out assault on the Affordable Care Act in favor of a more piecemeal approach, suggesting they would preserve some aspects of the law while jettisoning others. The changing tactics signal that the health-care law -- while still unpopular with voters overall -- may no longer be the lone rallying cry for Republicans seeking to defeat Democrats in this year's midterm elections.... On the campaign trail, some Republicans and their outside allies have started talking about the health-care law in more nuanced terms than they have in the past.
Imagine that. Running on a platform of taking health care benefits from millions of people isn't the winning strategy far-right lawmakers thought it'd be.
"The sentiment toward the Affordable Care Act is still strongly negative, but people are saying, 'Don't throw the baby out" with the bathwater, Glen Bolger, a partner with the GOP polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, told the Washington Post.
Remember when Republicans assumed they could simply ride a "Repeal Obamacare!" wave to electoral fortunes? That plan has been thrown out the window.
And what about the House GOP's vaunted alternative, years in the making?
[S]enior House Republicans have decided to postpone a floor vote on their own health-reform proposal -- making it less likely that a GOP alternative will be on offer before the November elections, according to lawmakers familiar with the deliberations. The delay will give them more time to work on the bill and weigh the consequences of putting a detailed policy before the voters in the fall, lawmakers said.
I suspect this isn't more widely considered a humiliating fiasco for Republicans because most political observers simply assumed they'd fail to present their own plan, but this new "postponement" only makes the GOP's debacle look worse.
Remember, it was exactly four months ago today that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA.) publicly vowed, "This year, we will rally around an alternative to Obamacare and pass it on the floor of the House."
That was Jan. 30. On May 30, Cantor's new message is apparently, "Check back after the elections."
Americans have only been waiting five years for the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act. What's another seven months?
We know, of course, why GOP officials are struggling. As we talked about in February, Republicans could present an alternative policy that they love, but it'll quickly be torn to shreds, make the party look foolish, and make clear that the GOP is not to be trusted with health care policy. Indeed, it would very likely scare the American mainstream to be reminded what Republicans would do if the power over the system were in their hands.
On other hand, Republicans could present a half-way credible policy, but it would have to require some regulations and public investments, which necessarily means the party's base would find it abhorrent.
As a Republican Hill staffer recently told Sahil Kapur, every attempt to come up with a serious proposal leads to a plan that "looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act." And so we get ... nothing.
Nothing, that is, except the Democratic law, which is working quite well, Republican assurances to the contrary and repeated attempts at sabotage notwithstanding.