Republicans Will Soon Stop Talking about Health Care

The Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), particularly Justice John Roberts siding with the liberals, took most everyone by surprise this morning. But if you tune in to Fox News or surf around the conservative blogs, they seem to be taking it somewhat philosophically. They're not happy, but there's little rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. Mostly they're saying, well, we'll just have to win this in November (see here for a representative sample). There's also a good deal of discussion of the fact that the Court declared that the requirement to carry health insurance is permissible under the government's taxing power. After all, if there's one thing Republicans know how to do, it's complain about taxes. Mitch McConnell quickly took to the floor of the Senate to condemn the decision, and no doubt Mitt Romney will soon say something so vague that no one can determine what he actually thinks.

But here's my guess: Republicans are going to drop health care very quickly. They took their shot with the only avenue they had to kill the ACA, and they came up short. The legal battle is over, and they know that once they start talking about repealing the whole thing, it makes it easier to talk about the benefits of the ACA that will be repealed, particularly since they have given up on even bothering to come up with a "replace" part of "repeal and replace." Oh, they'll still condemn the ACA when they're on Fox, or when they're talking to partisan audiences—just enough to reassure base conservatives that they're still angry. But in short order, they're going to move on to other topics now that the legal question has been settled.

That suits Mitt Romney just fine. You may remember that when the primary campaign started, many people said it would be impossible for him to become the Republican nominee, given that he had passed a health-care plan so closely resembling the ACA in Massachusetts, complete with an individual mandate. He managed to wriggle and writhe away from questions about it for the last two years. Those questions are no more comfortable than they ever were. As the leader of the GOP, he'll set the agenda for the party. And there are few things he'd rather talk about less. We'll pore over this decision for the next week, then the news media will move on, and Romney will breathe a sigh of relief.

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