Republican presidential candidates still try to drum up support by attacking Obamacare, but behind the scenes the Republican Party has quietly transitioned from pushing repeal, towards begrudgingly accepting many of the key provisions of Obamacare. According to a Saturday piece by Noam N. Levey at the LA Times, Republican congressional leaders are unwilling to threaten another government shut down to try to overturn Obamacare.
Furthermore, Republican leaders have silently incorporated many of Obamacare’s main protections into their own counter-proposals. For example, the most detailed GOP alternative plan to Obamacare, being pushed by Senators Orrin Hatch (UT) and Richard Burr (NC), and Rep. Fred Upton (MI-06), can best be described as “Obamacare light”. The Hatch-Burr-Upton plan includes guaranteeing coverage for pre-existing conditions, allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s plans, and providing government subsidies to help low-income consumers purchase insurance, all key components of Obamacare.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has now been the law of the land for over five years. Congressional Republicans have voted over 50 times unsuccessfully to repeal it, but despite their relentless efforts, they have been unable to overturn the law. Having failed repeatedly, some Republican leaders are signaling their desire to move on to other priorities.
With 22 million Americans directly benefiting from the law, and with uninsured rates plummeting from 18 percent to under 12 percent for American adults, many Republicans are beginning to recognize the folly of repealing the law.
Bashing Obamacare is still fashionable in GOP political circles, but for a significant number of Republicans, the attacks are now simply empty rhetoric designed to rally the base. Despite the harsh words, many GOP politicians now lack the willpower to actually strip away coverage from over 20 million Americans. When it comes to taking away their constituents’ health care, talk is cheap, but action is politically risky.
As long as Republicans confine their attacks to the abstract concept of Obamacare their words are well-received by conservative voters, but actual repeal of the ACA would have a negative impact on many Republican and Independent voters who, perhaps unwittingly, are some of the law’s primary beneficiaries. If they lose their insurance, they may finally put two and two together, and direct their retribution at the Republican politicians responsible.
With an impending Supreme Court ruling coming that might reshape the debate on Obamacare, Democrats should not yet declare victory. While an unfavorable Supreme Court ruling could prove double-edged for the GOP, it could also erode the health care progress America has made with the passing of the ACA.
However, regardless of how the Court rules in the King v. Burwell case, one thing is clear. For Republicans, repealing Obamacare was a far easier goal to achieve before it started helping 22 million Americans. Now that the law is working, the Republicans have little choice but to surrender and give up their war on Obamacare. While many party leaders aren’t waving the white flag publicly, the Republican Party is quietly aware that they have lost their war against Obamacare.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.