Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 28, 2009

THE REPEAL LITMUS TEST.... The question of whether Republicans would prioritize repealing health care reform has come up from time to time this year. It's not an especially complicated idea -- GOP officials have worked to make reform as unpopular as possible. That way, if/when it passes, Democrats won't enjoy the political benefits, and Republicans can run against it.

But as Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) conceded last week, repeal is trickier than it sounds.

Apparently, however, it's too late for that. Newt Gingrich said on "Meet the Press" yesterday that "every Republican in 2010 and 2012 will run on an absolute pledge to repeal this bill." The party's right-wing base will apparently tolerate nothing less.

It's now becoming clear that this could be a major issue for Republicans in 2010: the Tea Party movement, as well as high-profile conservatives, are going to demand that candidates call for a full repeal of the Dem healthcare reform bill, presuming it passes.

Multiple figures on the right are beginning to make this demand explicit. In an interview with me just now, Max Pappas, the Vice President for Public Policy of Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, said that if the bill passes, politicians should call for a full repeal.

"This has an unusual ability to be repealed, and the public is on that side." he said. "The Republicans are going to have to prove that they are worthy of their votes."

He emphasized that all the different parts of the bill fit together, and that Congress would need to try to repeal the whole thing.

I realize that right-wing activists aren't especially fond of nuances and details, but the request doesn't make much sense. Conservatives are making demands their friends won't be able to meet.

There is, of course, the practical/procedural hurdle. The right would need a Republican president, working with a Republican House, and a 60-vote Republican majority. Crapo, hardly a moderate, called this a "very tall order." He's right.

But then there are the political hurdles. "Every" Republican candidate will pledge to repeal popular consumer protections? Caps on families' medical expenses? Cost-containment measures? Deficit-reduction provisions? Subsidies for families who can't afford coverage? I really doubt it.

But the demands nevertheless leave the GOP in a bind. Party leaders know they won't be able to repeal the entire reform initiative, but the party's base is making inflexible demands. Note, for example, that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dodged a question from Jake Tapper yesterday when asked (twice) whether "Republicans running for Senate in 2010 should run on a platform of vowing to repeal the healthcare reform bill." After McConnell refused to say either way, RedState's Erick Erickson was incensed.

Expect this to be a major point of contention in conservative circles for much of 2010.

Steve Benen 1:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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Comments

I don't see the problem. Every single Republican can pledge to repeal the bill, and fight fight FIGHT to do so, and be confounded by the evil Demoncrats. That's right-wing win.

I read the other day that the right's gotten so good at working the ref they don't even play the game anymore.

Posted by: gussie on December 28, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Is it not obvious by now? The bill is a hand-out to the insurance and pharma industries. I strongly doubt that they want to repeal the legislation, or even to bring it back up and risk the improvements that the "pass the POS" faction has been promising.

The bill is a win-win for industry. It will be unpopular. And the less popular it becomes, the more the GOP benefits and the less likely that the legislation will be improved.

I'm confident that the GOP will generally run against the bill without making explicit promises to repeal it. But don't blame them. After all, "they don't have 60 votes."

Posted by: square1 on December 28, 2009 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

As you point out, the chances that they would be in a position to actually repeal the bill are nil, so there is no downside to making a promise they won't be able to keep. They can still make gains but "it just wasn't enough", and they can keep the fundraising dollars coming in. Hey, they've milked that abortion cow for 30+ years, right?

Posted by: Jimmy Jazz on December 28, 2009 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Newt takes a bold stance with nothing to lose. He has never taken political responsibility for his irresponsible positions - Iraq War, abstinence only education, Bush budgets/Bush deficit ...

Posted by: RolloTomasi on December 28, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

I'd love to watch the primary battles on this one. The Teabaggers have already attacked the one blue dog to switch to the Republican'ts (which explains why van Hollen is sure there won't be more defections) and this, combined with their treasonous purity test (trying to undermine the civilian control of the military) is only going to convince independents to stay with the Democrats.

Posted by: Lance on December 28, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

If the rethugs run on the major campaign plank of repealing health care reform, you can still count on the dumbocraps to:

- be able to leap anthills in multiple bounds
- be able to turn victory into defeat

If the rethugs run on the major campaign plank of repealing health care reform, you can count on the following dumbocrap senators up for reelection to yell 'me too'!

- Blanche Lincoln
- Evan Bayh
- Michael Bennett

Posted by: SadOldVet on December 28, 2009 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

"The right would need a Republican president, working with a Republican House, and a 60-vote Republican majority. "

Republican president - better than 50/50 chance in 2012.

Republican House - also better than 50/50 chance in 2012.

60-vote Republican majority in Senate - no, they will not need a 60 vote majority; they always get enough Democratic votes on popular GOP stuff, and this one will be very popular.

Posted by: anon on December 28, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if Mitchie expects that he will be able to explain political reality to a bunch of Teabaggers who are all yelling, "Keep yer gum'mint hands off mah Medicare!"

It will be fun to watch him try.


Posted by: SteveT on December 28, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

They don't have to emphasize the popular parts of the bill, just the unpopular parts.

Without a PO or some other working price containment system, the mandate is going to be astonishingly unpopular, and yes, it will be so unpopular those supporting the bill will be easy to knock down come the election, and those opposing it will get a boost in the polls.

The only way this damned bill will survive is if it's actually popular as a whole. Congress and Obama have got this one so bass-ackward it's not funny. The issue with healthcare today is nobody likes the middleman, so these clowns are on the verge of passing a law that forces everyone to pay the middleman, and doesn't come up with an alternative. In a referendum, single payer would almost certainly win, yet it can't even be DISCUSSED by Congress because of the right's stranglehold on governance.

And yet here you sit pretending the first thing anyone's going to think about when the law is passed are subsidies for the poor, subsidies that still require people pay around 7-9% of their own incomes on health insurance.

You think this is going to be popular? You really think this is going to be hard to repeal?

If you want repeal-proof healthcare reform, start passing popular healthcare reform, healthcare reform that's popular with the country, not with wonks and "centrists".

Posted by: squiggleslash on December 28, 2009 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, I'm really not looking forward to saying "I told you so" in 2013.

Posted by: squiggleslash on December 28, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Expect this to be a major point of contention in conservative circles for much of 2010.

Good! POUND THAT WEDGE!!

Oh yeah, i forgot Dems can't do that...


Posted by: kanopsis on December 28, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

I wish the repealers luck.

In a September 28 poll, in the only real state with an actual purchase mandate, and penalties for non-compliance, the 'repeal' option was chosen by 11% of respondents.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on December 28, 2009 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

anon, you got nothin' but your own wet dreams to support the notion that Repubs will win a majority, not to mention a veto-proof majority in congress, and not to mention the notion that any Repub presidential candidate on the horizon could actually win against Obama.

But if you are feeling full of phoney confidence at the moment, then by all means please nominate Sarah Palin in 2012. Please.

I remember moronic Repubs such as yourself who were convinced that Clinton would be a one-termer, especially after 1994. How'd that work out?

Posted by: Allan Snyder on December 28, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

"The right would need a Republican president, working with a Republican House, and a 60-vote Republican majority [in the Senate]."

Bullshit.
The "60-vote majority" requirement exists now only because the Dem's have over 50 votes. It did not exist when the Publicans had 50 votes (plus Cheney). And it will disappear without a trace the moment the Publicans get 50 or more Senators.
I can't believe this has not yet been pointed out.

Posted by: smartalek on December 28, 2009 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP wants to run on taking health insurance away from people?

Yes, please.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on December 28, 2009 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

"BTW, I'm really not looking forward to saying "I told you so" in 2013."

I know what you mean. There were those of us back in 2007 that pointed out we really didn't know what Obama was all about and that progressives were viewing him as one of their own based solely on his say so. Now we're all paying for that. And saying "I told you so" doesn't make it better.

Posted by: Tlaloc on December 28, 2009 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Repealing healthcare reform will be their latest rallying point that they will do nothing about just like abortion was for years. In spite of all of their promises, when they had a Republican president and a Republican majority in both houses they did little to deliver on their promise of repealing Roe versus Wade.

They count on their followers to not understand nuance and public policy.

Posted by: enslaved on December 28, 2009 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans don't seem to realize that much of the unpopularity of the bill comes from people who think it is too weak, rather than from teabagger types who think it is "socialism." Those people are not going to be favoring repeal.

There was a reason the GOP went all out to defeat this bill: once enacted, it will be practically impossible to repeal (reflexive defeatists on this board notwithstanding), and will become ever more popular once implemented. Further, it'll begin to erode the Republican tropes about how the government can't do anything aside from waging wars.

Posted by: jimBOB on December 28, 2009 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

"The Republicans don't seem to realize that much of the unpopularity of the bill comes from people who think it is too weak, rather than from teabagger types who think it is "socialism." Those people are not going to be favoring repeal."

We're not? You really sure about that? From where I sit there's absolutely no possibility of making any real headway on health care reform until large parts of the current bill get repealed (assuming it comes out of conference like the senate bill, which seems likely). Are there some things in it that I'd prefer to keep? Sure. But on a whole if the choice is to keep or repeal the whole thing I know I'm way more in favor of the latter.

Posted by: Tlaloc on December 28, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

From the Department of Unintentional Honesty, I bring you Erick, the son of Erick:

I have criticized Mitch McConnell repeated (sic) for wanting to beat the spread instead of actually beating health care.

Refreshing. I'm glad to see conservatives right out in the open about the fact that they're opposed to health care. For people other than themselves, I mean.

Posted by: Sean Peters on December 28, 2009 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Thank the stars someone has the guts to repeal this cruddy bill. This is not what we wanted and it is NOT real reform. This bill is a payoff to corporate cronies. Set aside your personal politics for just a moment and realize this bill is not what we wanted and its not what we need. We can do better. Repeal this junk legislation.

Posted by: ctay on December 28, 2009 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

But on a whole if the choice is to keep or repeal the whole thing I know I'm way more in favor of the latter.

So your plan is to install teabagger majorities in both the House and Senate, so that in 2013 President Palin can sign a bill repealing the whole schmear (eliminating coverage for millons and bringing back much-loved stuff like pre-existing condition exclusions and lifetime caps etc.) so that in 2016 (assuming the country is still here) we can elect another 60-vote Democratic Senate, Democratic-majority House and Dem president, and go through the whole business again that we went through last summer, so that you can once again be disappointed we didn't get single payer.

Normally one has to go to Redstate to find tactical brilliance of this caliber.

Posted by: jimBOB on December 28, 2009 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

I fully expect Republican'ts to take credit for this healthcare bill in 2020. "We passed it and the liberals were against it!"

Re-writing future history, er, whatever.

Posted by: Gridlock on December 28, 2009 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

"So your plan is ..."

Let me stop you there. You guys just proved beyond any doubt that strategic thinking is not your strong point.

I don't have a particular plan because I don't see much of any way we get out of the huge cluster$#@% Obama just saddled us with. The left has no balls to do real reform and the right has no inclination. On the other hand what I see is that there are a number of other issues that the left is about to also completely screw up (climate change, EFCA, etc.).

Sad as it is to say we're now in a position where we're better off letting the GOP have enough seats to just kill these attempts rather than let the dems put in place "reform" that makes things worse and locks in those changes indefinitely.

Think about that for a moment- in just 11 months the dems have screwed up so monumentally that some PROGRESSIVES are praying for the GOP to come in and stop them. That takes some serious talent.

Posted by: Tlaloc on December 28, 2009 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

So Tlaloc, you reject the entire idea of planning? You have no idea of how to get legislation passed in any form, though you are happy to complain that whatever got passed was inadequate, because that way you can keep your moral purity while rooting for the opposition to win, even if that means the death, impoverishment and misery for those that the legislation would have helped.

And you accuse us of a lack of strategic thinking.

Posted by: jimBOB on December 28, 2009 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

"There is, of course, the practical/procedural hurdle. The right would need a Republican president, working with a Republican House, and a 60-vote Republican majority."

If Obama will be running on the "Wait Until 2014" platform, he is quite vulnerable to losing.

The Senate Republicans would only need 50 votes, as they can utilize reconciliation to repeal ANY PART of the healthcare legislation, as it would reduce spending.

Posted by: Joe Friday on December 28, 2009 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

"So Tlaloc, you reject the entire idea of planning?"

Wow. I can't even imagine how you teased that out of what I said. Nor do I really care to hear your attempted explanation.


"You have no idea of how to get legislation passed in any form"

Actually I wrote a fairly long comment explaining exactly how to get a real bill passed. I'll repost here special just for you:

**
you start by declaring that you are passing a single payer. That sets the starting point for negotiation so that the right and lieberman have to fight you for "just" a public option. While doing that you make a number of smaller bills, one on recission, one on pre-existing conditions, another for subsidies, and so on. The popular ones you put up for votes by themselves and use as cudgels against the right if they vote no. The unpopular ones you attach to other bills to get through. Then you take the popular ones the right fillibustered and you attach those to popular bills to get them through too.

You keep changing the environment so the right has no clear target to focus on. Change the name of the bill every time you make a small change. Bludgeon the right on every vote against popular items like recission to keep them on their heels. You keep up the pressure constantly.

Introduce bills meanwhile that are controversial with the right and especially ones that lead to infighting between conservatives and libertarians. Both help to distract them and take their focus of health care. Immigration and Climate Change are good starters. If they're making headway against health care you switch focus to the climate and vice versa.

You take Lieberman into your office and let him know that he's on board. Not that he has a choice, he's on board or for the rest of term he's out. Out of his posts, out of the loop, out of everything. Oh and he can kiss any earmarks goodbye. And god forbid he introduce any bills because every damn one will have a secret hold (or thirty). You'll also have to reassign his office, some kind of fire code thing, but no worry there's a cubicle in the basement he can work out of. In fact every one of his perks as a senator is going to have some kind of fire code violation. Weird that. His nuts- your fist.

It's standard politics. It's how you get things done. And the dems have more than enough muscle to do it, it they weren't utter pussies.
**

"rooting for the opposition to win, even if that means the death, impoverishment and misery for those that the legislation would have helped."

There's NO ONE this legislation helps except insurance company stockholders, and frankly %$#@ them. Everyone else is going to get screwed by it because it does nothing to control costs and turns us into a captive market for an industry with no scruples. The end result is inevitably going to be people who are technically "insured" but who still lack medical care because they can't afford the deductible after forking over however much the insurance agency chooses to charge them.

Posted by: Tlaloc on December 28, 2009 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

you start by declaring that you are passing a single payer.

Stake out a position on legislation that everyone knows you cannot pass. What's to negotiate? Why not let it come to the floor watch it fail?

While doing that you make a number of smaller bills, one on recission, one on pre-existing conditions, another for subsidies, and so on...

Meanwhile, other necessary legislation goes nowhere while the majority party plays games.

You take Lieberman into your office and let him know that he's on board. Not that he has a choice, he's on board or for the rest of term he's out.

After you piss on Lieberman and he caucuses with the GOP, you still can't get to 60.

Effin' brilliant!

Posted by: AK Liberal on December 28, 2009 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

There will bve tremendous backlash against this bill. My take is that if Obama wants a shot at reelection in 2012, he will have to go along with moderate democrats, independents, and conservatives in repealing and overhauling this bill or he won't have a snowball's chance of reelection. People are ready for a revolt. The more people understand the inplications of this bill, the angrier they will become.

Posted by: Dave C on December 28, 2009 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Drunks like Senator Baucas speaking from the floor of the Senate (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5Y9X5ggxzA&feature=player_embedded) A known terrorist who was outed by his Father gets aboard a jet liner and nearly succeeds in blowing it up. The government can’t do anything right. That is why it makes no sense to hand over a seventh of the US economy to the power mongers in DC who used lies and dirty back room deals to shovel down our throats their take over of health care.  Deficit Reduction, a lie: According to the CBO, the Democrats double counted the 500 billion dollar cut to Medicare. The fact is you can't use the cuts to Medicare to cut the deficit while at the same time using the same cuts to fund a trillion dollar new entitlement program. No tax increases for the Middle Class is a lie:  The Health Care Reform Bill increases at least nine taxes that the Middle Class will have to pay including taxes on tanning salons and taxes on Medical devices. Health Care Reform will "save" Medicare is a lie for two big reasons: (1) A "death panel" will be established that is not subject to legal litigation or Congressional oversight with out a two thirds majority vote The government "death panel" has been granted  the power to dictate what procedures, if any, are allowable for Medicare patients.  (2) There is no other way of cutting 500 billion dollar out of the Medicare budget when in the next few years 20 million new people will be added to the roles without the government drastically slashing Medical Care for Seniors which will turn Seniors into an “undesirable” class of citizen when it come to health care. Some might say the Democrats “Final Solution“ to “save“ Medicare is to spend the money cut from Medicare on more “desirable” people from the the Democrat’s point of view. Hmmm


the White House’s deals with PhRMA and AHIP are likely to involve criminal violations of 18 U.S.C. § 201 “Bribery of public officials and witnesses” — see http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/18/I/11/201

Posted by: jake on December 28, 2009 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

Top ten ways to improve the current disaster, from a right-wing standpoint.

1) Pass a statute making the Advisory boards that decide what insurance must cover legally powerless.
2) Repeal the individual mandate.
3) Repeal employer tax breaks and replace with individual ones.
4) Tort reform
5) Drug Reimportation (a little triangulation here)
6) Impose waiting periods so that "guaranteed issue" is not a license to wait until you are sick to buy insurance.
7a) Subsidize the sick and/or the poor but do not have "community rating" whereby everyone pays the same no matter how much they consume.
7b) Cap rates for the sick and/or poor but allow wide variance in what individuals pay.
9) Allow insurance sales across state lines.
10) Eliminate the ban on HSA's.

Posted by: Joseph Seely on December 28, 2009 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

"So Tlaloc, you reject the entire idea of planning?"

Wow. I can't even imagine how you teased that out of what I said.

Maybe it was when you began with "I don't have a particular plan"

Now on to your brilliant legislative strategy.

you start by declaring that you are passing a single payer.

You've now lost, in addition to Lieberman, Landrieu, Baucus, Conrad and Nelson at a minimum. Say hello to no bill.

The popular ones you put up for votes by themselves and use as cudgels against the right if they vote no.

None of which get out of committee, much less get voted on, since you've pissed off the committee chairmen.

Then you take the popular ones the right fillibustered and you attach those to popular bills to get them through too.

i.e. a big package like what just passed. Note that it barely got past filibuster despite having no public option.

Introduce bills meanwhile that are controversial with the right and especially ones that lead to infighting between conservatives and libertarians.

And hold things up so your main legislative priority never gets to a vote.

You take Lieberman into your office and let him know that he's on board.

Whereupon he tells you to take a hike and you're down to 59 even if you can mollify Baucus, Conrad, Landrieu and Nelson after pissing them off with the transparently phony single-payer initial proposal.

There's NO ONE this legislation helps except insurance company stockholders,

You don't know much about the bill, do you?

Posted by: jimBOB on December 28, 2009 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

The Senate Republicans would only need 50 votes, as they can utilize reconciliation to repeal ANY PART of the healthcare legislation, as it would reduce spending.

This is so patently false that I wonder if any wingnut actually knows what is in the bill. Eliminating the individual mandate would not reduce spending. Eliminating community rating would not reduce spending, nor would any of the health insurance co regs.

The only aspect major aspect of the bill subject to the reconciliation meat cleaver would be the subsidies for low-to-moderate income participants. Good luck leaving the mandate but taking away the means for families of modest means to pay for it.

And of course they will need 67, not 50. All bills can be vetoed, even appropriations bills allowed into the reconciliation process. It will take 67 to override any veto.

Posted by: kth on December 28, 2009 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

Nonsense.

With reconciliation you only need 50 votes. Check all the legislation passed exactly in that manner during previous 8 years.

Posted by: Joe Friday on December 28, 2009 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

If the Democratic leadership had any balls then they wouldn't need 60 votes for anything. The Constitution sets out no such requirement - in fact, the stipulation in Article I that the VP breaks ties in the Senate implies that legislation is supposed to pass by a majority vote. The VP is Constitutionally the President of the Senate - he can throw out the filibuster if he has a majority of the Senate to sustain him. This is the nuclear option that Republicans were considering a couple of years ago.

The filibuster makes progressive reform of any kind impossible. Until the filibuster is eliminated, nothing else matters.

Posted by: Josh G. on December 29, 2009 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

They need to produce an alternative and run on repealing the current legislation and replacing it with something that everyone has seen.

Posted by: Angela on December 29, 2009 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

"Maybe it was when you began with "I don't have a particular plan""

Right and from "I don't have a plan here" you jumped straight to thinking "I reject the idea of planning." Brilliant.


"You've now lost, in addition to Lieberman, Landrieu, Baucus, Conrad and Nelson at a minimum. Say hello to no bill."

no what you've done is shift the overton window so instead of them fighting against a public option they are fighting against single payer and for a public option. A big dem majority (like say 60% of both houses and the presidency) can do that if they aren't pussies.

It's no different than haggling a price. You guys decided to start haggling at the limit of what you could pay. That idiotic. You start well away from the limit so you have some room to get haggled down painlessly.


"None of which get out of committee, much less get voted on, since you've pissed off the committee chairmen."

Bull. The popular bills will sail through committees since they are, you know, popular. And the highly popular president has the bully pulpit to browbeat any chairpeople who really do try to put up a fight.


"i.e. a big package like what just passed. Note that it barely got past filibuster despite having no public option."

It barely got past a filibuster because the dems started from a position of utter weakness (by choice) and because the president refused to actually get involved (other than to service lieberman). Those are choices, not facts. It didn't have to be that way. Rather than begging Lieberman et al to let us have a little something we were in perfect position to dictate. There were a whole lot of options to use to coerce their help or to make them irrelevant.


"And hold things up so your main legislative priority never gets to a vote."

You're being intentionally stupid. There was no time limit on a good bill. A good bill didn't have to get passed by christmas. And if we did more than one thing at a time then we could have handled the economy concurrently.


"Whereupon he tells you to take a hike"

No he doesn't. Lieberman is very clearly a small craven man who loves the spotlight. You have the power to drop kick his ass into siberia. He'll fold in a second if he sees you're serious. On the other hand what you guys did was to show him he had all the power which made him quite the little tyrant. Great job!


"You don't know much about the bill, do you?"

I know the cheerleaders try to pretend it will hold down costs despite all the evidence to the contrary. This bill is a disaster. That some on the left think it is a political necessity to keep the dems in power is frankly disgusting. It's exactly what the right did during the bush years.

Posted by: Tlaloc on December 29, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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