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Hullabaloo


Friday, April 11, 2014

 
It's not that Republicans don't think Obamacare can work. They don't like what it does.

by David Atkins

Greg Sargent makes an excellent point today regarding the GOP reaction to Sebelius' resignation: they are finally, even though only implicitly as yet, acknowledging that their main opposition to the ACA is not that it won't work, but that it can't and shouldn't be made to work:

Here’s Mitch McConnell: “Sebelius may be gone, but the problems with this law and the impact it’s having on our constituents aren’t. Obamacare has to go too.” As always, with McConnell, the law’s beneficiaries simply don’t exist.
Last fall, as the law got underway and as the website then crashed, the Republican position was essentially that the law was fatally flawed (nobody wanted it, supposedly) and thus would inevitably fail to fulfill its own goals. Now that the law has hit enrollment targets, and evidence comes in that it is for now on track, the Republican position is that the law is a failure even if it is more or less doing what it was designed to do — cover a lot more people. Indeed, one way to describe the GOP position is that Republicans think the law is an inherent failure precisely because it is doing what it was designed to do.

The Republican position — that the law can’t work by definition – is essentially an admission that Republicans simply don’t support doing what Obamacare sets out to do: Expand coverage to the number of people the law hopes to cover, through a combination of increased government oversight over the health system and — yep — spending money. The GOP focus on only those being negatively impacted by the law, and the aggressive hyping of cancellations into “millions” of full blown “horror stories” – combined with the steadfast refusal to acknowledge the very existence of the law’s beneficiaries — is, at bottom, just another way to fudge the actual GOP position: Flat out opposition to doing what it takes to expand health care to lots and lots of people.

Sometimes Republicans are candid about this position, such as when Paul Ryan forthrightly admitted that once Obamacare is repealed, its popular provisions should not be restored because it would be too expensive. Others, however, recognize the political problem here, and continue to say they support Obamacare’s general goals while declining to detail how a replacement would accomplish them. The problem for Republicans is that they want to persuade folks that they, too, support these general goals — hence the perpetual promise of vague alternatives — but this posture is fundamentally incompatible with the idea that Obamacare cannot work by definition, because there’s no alternative way to accomplish those goals at the law’s scale.
The ACA is going to get more and more tricky for Republicans as time goes along. The key for Democrats will be to not let the Republicans off the hook for their virulent opposition. As much as the GOP saw gains from exploiting lies about the ACA in 2010, Democrats should be able to punish the GOP for opposing many of the law's commonsense provisions for the next two decades.


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