Republican leaders have often expressed a bit of surprise, even a sense of being unfairly maligned, when rank-and-file Republican voters make clear that they don’t fully trust GOP leaders’ commitment to repealing, rather than “reforming,” Obamacare. Such skepticism certainly won’t be reduced by the news that Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the House Republican Conference Chair (the 4th-highest position in House GOP leadership) reportedly kicked off her reelection campaign on Thursday by saying, “We need to look at reforming [Obamacare’s] exchanges.”
The Spokesman-Review reports:
With the news this week that more than 600,000 Washington residents have acquired new health care plans through the state exchange, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said it’s unlikely the Affordable Care Act will be repealed….
McMorris Rodgers continued [GOP House members’] criticisms [of Obamacare] Thursday, but said the framework established by the law likely will persist and reforms should take place within its structure.
This is as remarkable as it is appalling. Let’s put it into context: During the 2009 August recess, Democrats heard an earful from angry constituents about Obamacare, which was then just taking shape. The Democrats defiantly pressed onward. Five months later, Republican Scott Brown was elected by the voters of Massachusetts—Massachusetts!—to fill the Senate seat previously held by Ted Kennedy, after Brown had explicitly campaigned to be the deciding vote against Obamacare. President Obama responded by telling House Democrats to take one for the team. They obediently did so, passing Obamacare in March of 2010 in willful disregard of public opinion. Voters responded later that year by giving Republicans their biggest win in the House since before the release of Gone With the Wind, as Republicans picked up 63 seats.
When Obamacare finally went into operation last fall, it stumbled at the start beyond all expectations. And even after extending Obamacare’s open-enrollment period to more than half a year (far longer than originally intended), the Obama administration still fell far short of the CBO’s projection that 9 million people would buy the government-approved insurance that they were mandated to buy.
All along this nearly 5-year stretch, polling has shown Obamacare to be miserably unpopular. At the time of McMorris Rodgers’ comment, Real Clear Politics showed that Americans had opposed Obamacare in 119 consecutive polls dating back 15 months—and additional polling indicates that voters strongly prefer repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a conservative alternative, versus keeping Obamacare in either its current or amended form.
In light of these facts, one has to ask: How much political courage does it take to do what the American people desire and fight for full repeal of perhaps the worst piece of legislation in all of American history? If Republicans were to show one-tenth the determination to repeal Obamacare that Obama has shown to impose it, the debate would—as Obama puts it—be over.
Republicans’ principal hang-up in advancing repeal seems to be their realization that they can’t just yank millions of Americans off of their newly acquired insurance and return them to the ranks of the uninsured. The answer to this political reality, of course, is to advance an alternative—here’s one, here’s another—that would ensure that all Americans have access to insurance they could afford. But rather than doing the hard work of getting Republican members to unite around such an alternative and getting them up to speed in explaining it to voters, many Republican officeholders—including some in positions of leadership—would rather do what they do best: raise the white flag of surrender.