Political Animal


July 06, 2011 10:40 AM Remember ‘Repeal and Replace’?

By Steve Benen

About a month ago, freshman Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) was pressed by some constituents about his vote to eliminate the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, including the popular parts. Duffy suggested he’d been misled by his own party leaders — they’d “committed” to him that the GOP would have a “replacement proposal” by the Spring, but failed to follow through.

Republican leaders made that promise to a lot of people, and at this point, they would prefer that we just forget all about it.

When they took control of the House, Republicans could barely stop talking about their plans to “repeal and replace” the health care reform law.

Six months later, they hardly talk publicly about those plans at all. And they’re nowhere close to “replacing” the law.

House Republicans haven’t held a floor vote on a bill or amendment trying to repeal, defund or even nick the law for six weeks, after a dozen attempts earlier this year. The stream of committee hearings to pick apart the law’s policies — held back-to-back-to-back earlier this year — has slowed to a trickle.

And not a single element of their “replace” agenda has gotten a House floor vote.

Going into the 112th Congress, more than a few Republican leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, said the party’s top goal wasn’t job creation or deficit reduction, but rather, repealing “Obamacare” and replacing it with a GOP alternative. It was always a rather pointless endeavor, since the Democratic Senate and Democratic White House would never go along, but Republicans launched a repeal crusade anyway.

And now, of course, that crusade is just fizzling out.

The key takeaway from all of this, to my mind, isn’t just that the repeal push was a fool’s errand, but also that congressional Republicans were always blowing smoke on the “replace” part of their campaign promise. The GOP finds it easy to tear down, but building up requires policy chops that Republicans frankly don’t have.

Sure, the GOP could come up with some kind of health care reform alternative, but they know perfectly well that it would be awful compared to the Affordable Care Act — rival Republican plans have always failed to cover the uninsured, failed to bring down costs, and failed to protect consumers against insurance-industry abuses.

What’s more, Republicans also realize that many ideas that have traditionally been part of the GOP health care agenda — most notably, the individual mandate — have already been adopted by Democrats.

The result is a party that talked a good game on “repeal and replace,” but couldn’t even try to deliver.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • slappy magoo on July 06, 2011 10:43 AM:

    Well, let's also be honest, this is the wrong time of the political season to try to exploit peoples' fears & ignorance about rising healthcare costs. Wait till Spring of 2012, they'll gear it up again.

  • c u n d gulag on July 06, 2011 10:44 AM:

    Well, maybe it's better to say nothing since your alternative is - 'F*ck your Grandma, f*ck your Mama, f*ck your kiddies, and f*ck you - die the f*ck fast, and die the f*ck quiet!'

    I don't think even Luntz can spin that one.

  • bignose on July 06, 2011 10:48 AM:

    "House Republicans havenít held a floor vote on a bill or amendment trying to repeal, defund..."

    I'm curious - WTF has the GOP held a vote on, and of those things, what has actually become law?

  • zandru on July 06, 2011 10:49 AM:

    Ironically, Sean Duffy was the guy who replaced liberal lion David Obey in my home district. In an interview in the local paper, he came across as an innocent fool.

    After the year of demonstrations and recalls, I'm hoping Duffy (R) won't be re-elected.

    "billau symbolism" - or mixed metaphor?

  • emjayay on July 06, 2011 10:52 AM:

    Their replacement for ACA was always NOTHING. They never presented any alternative before other than letting insurance companies offer crappier and crappier plans across state lines, and tort reform, which it seems like various states have versions of already with mixed results.

    And what about Jobs Jobs Jobs? (OK, that was too easy and obvious).

    Their ONLY objective has been the one they've stated many times: one term for the evil Satanist Fascist Socialist Kenyan and mainly looks like a black guy Obama.

  • Mark D on July 06, 2011 10:58 AM:

    "The key takeaway from all of this ... isnít just that the repeal push was a foolís errand, but also that congressional Republicans have absolutely no interest in actual policy or governance -- just a fixation on punishing anyone not white, rich and Christian, and a never-ending quest to piss off liberals."

    Fixed that for ya ...

  • walt on July 06, 2011 11:06 AM:

    If Republicans win big next year (the Senate is a given and the presidency is looking fairly good as well), will ACA be repealed? There should be a fair amount of triumphalism that will feed the current radicalism but Republicans might be tempered by the specter of adult responsibility. A President Romney might well let his own health-care template survive. He'll pass some kind of fig-leaf legislation that "repeals" the "government takeover" part of ACA but basically leaves the core components intact.

    Republicans routinely bluster and bullshit their way to victory. We will be here in two years bellyaching about their rank hypocrisy and they'll be laughing at us the whole time.

  • T2 on July 06, 2011 11:19 AM:

    Mark D has it nailed.

  • c u n d gulag on July 06, 2011 11:19 AM:

    maybe an old prude,

    Well, I don't know how old a prude you are, but I can tell how blind you are, or how abnoxious you are, or how stupid you are - because it's c u n "d" gulag.

    So, 'hard' back on that while you're harkening.

  • berttheclock on July 06, 2011 11:45 AM:

    Possibly, they are waiting until political cable "news" returns from the Anthony verdict. Now, is Ms Anthony booked for "Meet the Press" or Chris Wallace's show?

  • js on July 06, 2011 12:16 PM:

    Bignose, I think the repub congress named a couple of Post Offices - or libraries
    or something!!!!

  • zandru on July 06, 2011 12:25 PM:

    MJA asks "And what about Jobs Jobs Jobs?"

    Yes, indeed. Here in NM, the Reps ran on that platform, too. Then what did they spend the 60-day (long) session doing? Restrictions on abortion - which didn't pass. Restrictions on drivers' licenses - which didn't pass. Requirements to show photo ID before you could be allowed to vote - which didn't pass. Each of these topics had many competing bills, and each tried to get slapped onto something important as an amendment.

    Jobs? Well, they did get through some big giveaways to the extractive industries. Maybe these industries will actually hire a few people as a result. More likely, if past performance is any guide, they'll be able to declare higher profits, pay a larger dividend, and take the rest of the money out of state.

    Next session, in 2012, is just 30 days long. How much of that will end up being wasted?

    Okay, how am I going to represent: capitol Kappa, small rho, omega, iota with an accent over it, delta, omega, nu?!?!

    "icerim greater" - not on the future warmth-enhanced earth - brought to you by Today's Republican Party!

  • jheartney on July 06, 2011 12:32 PM:

    If you recall the great Social Security Privatization debate from 2005-6, despite lots of talk and bluster, the GOP never actually put forward a concrete legislative proposal. Campaigning on vaporware proposals is their SOP anymore.

  • Stephen Stralka on July 06, 2011 12:35 PM:

    emjayay is right. The Republicans have kept their word, in their own warped way. They voted to repeal Obamacare, and then replaced it with what is in fact their preferred alternative: nothing.

    It's a weirdly dishonest form of honesty. They said what they were going to do, and they've done it. It's just that the phrase "repeal and replace" was obviously crafted to trick voters into thinking they were going to replace the ACA with something other than the existing HMOcracy.

  • Stephen Stralka on July 06, 2011 12:45 PM:

    Fortunately I think walt is wrong. President Romney? I can't say it's impossible, given that W. Bush was elected (sort of) twice, but even W. in some ways wasn't as big a clown as Romney is becoming. He didn't change his most cherished beliefs every time a new poll came out, for on thing.

    At any rate, if Romney does get the nomination I'm going to make some bumper stickers: "Mitt Romney? Are you joking?"

  • LoquaciousLaura on July 06, 2011 12:49 PM:

    Backing up emjayay as well:

    Republicans DO NOT believe that health care should be universal, is a right, or is even a government concern. They believe it should be a matter of the "free market" all the way ... just like homeless veterans and seniors, starving children, etc. It's all about punishment: it's your individual responsibility to care for these things, you see, so if you lose your job, or if your company doesn't provide healthcare, or god forbid you didn't save enough for retirement to outpace inflation ... well, you messed up, and it's not "our" problem.

  • mr. irony on July 06, 2011 1:36 PM:

    gop 2010: jobs.............jobs.............jobs...

    gop 2011: anti-abortion...anti-union...anti-voter

  • MP on July 06, 2011 3:38 PM:

    Broken Promises

    How convenient that Republicans spent more a year promising to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, and then, when they won the House in November, 2010, the "replace" portion of the campaign promise was conveniently left out. Did they merely put the two words in the wrong order? Who knows. All we do know is that Republicans tried to repeal a 2,000-page health care reform law with a two-paragraph repeal bill, and that, to date, they haven't even attempted to draft reform legislation that might have a chance at becoming law.

    A Party of Words: Promises Are Promises Are Promises...