(Bill Pascoe/In the Right) – From the, admittedly, cart-before-the-horse file: What to do about repealing Obamacare?
Specifically, what should be the strategy employed by Republicans next year — following the wave election that will return them to control of the House of Representatives and, possibly, the Senate — in re: living up to their promises to repeal the government takeover of healthcare enacted earlier this year?
There are two main schools of thought, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.
The first school of thought says that if you want to repeal the whole bill, you repeal the whole bill. No ifs, ands, or buts. The whole schebang.
As a corollary, any effort to repeal the individual constituent parts of Obamacare — to the extent they may be successful — will only leave the remaining bits of Obamacare less distasteful and, therefore, more difficult to repeal down the road.
This is classic revolutionary thinking — as Lenin put it, “the worse, the better.” The longer the citizenry has to live under Obamacare, the greater will be the distaste for it. So don’t make it easier to swallow, allow it to go down like castor oil without sugar.
The second school of thought says if you want to repeal the whole bill, you can certainly try with a comprehensive bill, but you must recognize that you may have to do it one piece at a time — as the old saw says, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.
So moving a comprehensive repeal bill through the Congress to the President’s desk is a key part of the second strategy, but only a part; after the certain failure of the comprehensive repeal bill, suggests the second strategy, bills repealing the individual constituent parts of Obamacare should be moved to the floor. Moreover, because Congress has the power of the purse, refusing to fund Obamacare can and should be a part of the strategy.
Of course, neither strategy will work entirely in the 112th Congress, because even if comprehensive or piecemeal repeal could be maneuvered through the Senate, either or both would meet a certain death at the hands of the Obama veto pen.
So the simple fact is, in order to repeal Obamacare fully, one would have to create a new mandate for repeal in an election where a President willing and wanting to sign repeal legislation can be elected. And that won’t happen for at least another two years.
To the advantages and disadvantages:
The main advantage of the first school of thought — let’s call it the Leninist Strategy — is that is simple. It is easy to understand, and there is no mistaking its meaning. This is not “repeal and replace,” the weasel words of the mushy middle. There are no nuances, no arguments, no questions.
To implement this strategy, one must pass a bill — let’s call it S 3152, “To Repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” — through both houses of Congress, and then have it signed by the President.
But obviously, this legislation will not be signed by Barack Obama — enactment of Obamacare is not just the signature legislative achievement of Obama’s first (and likely only) term, it is the signature legislative achievement of two generations of liberals going back to Harry Truman.
Obama would rather hand over a musty Kenyan birth certificate than sign a bill repealing Obamacare.
Of course, S 3152 would never get to the President’s desk. Senate Minority Leader Dick Durbin will rally the Senate’s Democrats to block the bill via filibuster in the summer of 2011.
And therein lies the disadvantage in the Leninist Strategy — for, after the Senate Democrats’ successful filibuster, what is the next step? Apparently, nothing, other than to campaign in 2012 on the fact that Republicans moved a bill through the House, and tried valiantly but ended up watching it die in the Senate. Democrats will be blamed, to be sure, but that does nothing to alleviate the great damage that is already being done, and that will continue to be done, to our healthcare delivery system, our economy, and our rights as individuals living in a not-as-free-as-it-was state as long as this noxious law is on the books.
The second school of thought says pass the repeal bill through the House — we can even use, for good measure, S 3152 — and try to pass it through the Senate. If it passes the Senate through some miracle, wonderful, but don’t expect it to be signed by Barack Obama (see above). And then — and only then — begin taking up legislation to repeal the individual constituent parts that make Obamacare as a whole so noxious. And while you’re at it, don’t fund its key elements.
The advantage of this strategy is that it proves to the electorate that Republicans elected in 2010 on their promise to repeal Obamacare are not offering a simple, single vote merely for show; they are serious about reversing course on this legislation, and will do so by any and all means necessary, including incremental repeal.
So the advantage of the second strategy is that it creates a clear contrast between the two parties on one of the fundamental issues of our time, and it does so on a repeated basis (that is, every time another vote on repealing a portion of Obamacare is brought to the floor of either body) all through 2011 and 2012, in the run up to the 2012 elections. It demonstrates to voters who chose to put their trust back in the GOP in 2010 that their faith was not misplaced, that in fact Republicans have learned their lesson. Given the still dismal state of the GOP brand, this would be no small victory in itself.
Critics of the second strategy suggest that by including incremental repeal measures, supporters of the second strategy would be giving Democrats a chance to vote for smaller chunks of repeal so as to provide themselves political cover.
But the water-holding ability of this criticism is questionable, at best. Which Democrat who’s already voted for Obamacare is now going to confuse his/her voters (and threaten his/her already fragile relationship with his/her party’s base) by voting to repeal elements of legislation they just supported earlier this year? That would provide fodder for the GOP ‘Flip Flop Brigade,’ the talented school of political ad makers which brought us John Kerry windsurfing back and forth.
Moreover, the likelihood of Democrats in the 112th Congress voting to provide themselves cover is also questionable. Just which Democrats are we talking about? The vast majority of them are already on record having cast a vote for Obamacare. Those whose electorates were so angered about that vote likely will send them to early retirement in two weeks; those who survive the 2010 wave are likely to believe that if they survived 2010 in the wake of their vote for Obamacare, they have no need for cover in 2012.
On the whole, the second strategy makes more sense. It is realistically premised on the understanding that nothing of consequence — other than refusal to fund Obamacare — can happen until a new, hopefully Republican, President takes office in January 2013. And by making Democrats cast vote after vote against repealing Obamacare or its constituent parts, it builds a vote record that makes the election of a Republican President and a filibuster-proof GOP Senate majority in 2012 all the more likely. It is the wiser of the two choices.
I am all in favor of Ronald Reagan’s dictum that we use bold colors, not pale pastels, to differentiate ourselves from our opponents. But even Reagan recognized a need for more than one color.