The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare, does not cover 100% of citizens, is too expensive and too bureaucratic. It passed without a single Republican vote and remains unpopular in the polls. Nancy Pelosi famously said, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.” Each passing day, more and more people are learning what’s in it and they don’t like it.
Republicans in Congress have a golden opportunity to kill ObamaCare or at least slow its implementation. A group of GOP senators plan to do just that by using the coming debt limit and budget battles to de-fund the law. They are willing to shut down the government if necessary to do it. There are at least two concerns with their effort.
First, Republican experience with the last government shut down during the Clinton administration was less than positive. Second, even if they could get a de-fund bill through Congress, Obama would veto it and Democrats would launch a hate campaign like no other: Republicans want to take affordable health care away from children, seniors and the poor. They only want to protect the high salaries of insurance company CEOs. We’ve seen it before along with weak responses from GOP leadership.
This does not mean Republicans should shy away from hardball but they do need to be smart about it. When ObamaCare first became law, Republicans cried “Repeal and replace.” We’ve heard a great deal about repeal, it was a major theme of the Romney campaign. The replace part never made the spot light. This time it should.
Instead of directly using the debt ceiling/budget legislation as the horse to ride, propose a sense of congress resolution that sets forth a contract with America on health care. It should call for a two-year suspension of implementation of ObamaCare to provide time to develop truly bi-partisan, transparent health care legislation. During the two-year hiatus, keep in place the popular extension of children on parent’s health policies and preexisting condition provisions. The contract should contain specific principles, set goals and recognize the need for reform. An example of the need for reform, we have the world’s finest medical services but they are delivered unevenly and at high cost. Another is our legal system that drives costs up. Republicans need to champion reform.
Properly promoted, a health care sense of Congress resolution could be attractive to Democrats who could see it as a way to take credit for forcing the subject into the national debate but accepting the fact that ObamaCare is a “train wreck” and needs serious change, a start over. For Republicans, it would provide an opportunity to unify a divided caucus. If a contract with America on health care passed with a large bipartisan vote, implementing it would lessen a veto threat, show the public that Congress can accomplish something worthwhile and give Republicans a positive issue to run on in the 2014 mid-term elections. If Republicans stick solely with repeal, they run a high risk of losing. A loss of the House in 2014 would open the door to a Canadian style single payer system, the Democrat’s answer to the “train wreck.”