The Coming Health-Care-Reform Theater.

Republican apostate David Frum makes an interesting argument: By committing not to compromise with Democrats, Republicans have assured that all they'll be engaged in is theater, particularly when it comes to health-care reform. As an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, Frum thinks it stinks:

They'll schedule a vote to repeal the "cuts" in Medicare under health care reform. (Not really cuts -- restrictions on future growth.)

They'll refuse to appropriate funds to implement aspects of health care reform.

They'll call hearings to publicize problems with the law and complaints from those negatively affected.

And at the end of two years, the law will still be there, more or less intact...

But if there is no compromise, there can be no negotiations. And if there are no negotiations, there can be no fixes -- because every important fix requires the concurrence of the Senate and the president...

As is, we're getting a bad trade: Republicans may gain political benefit, but Democrats get the policy. In this exchange, it is the Democrats who gain the better end of the deal. Congressional majorities come and go. Entitlement programs last forever.

Of course, this is only true if Republicans make true on their promise not to compromise. But I think on this specific issue, Frum is probably right. Republicans will end up compromising on some things here and there, even as they loudly proclaim that they're doing no such thing. But on health care, their base -- and their presidential candidates, who will be in a mad rush to the right on everything, particularly this -- just won't allow anything that looks like a reasonable discussion. Mitch McConnell is probably hoping they can take the Senate and the White House in 2012, then get rid of the filibuster and repeal the whole damn thing. And that's by no means outside the realm of possibility. But it's an all-or-nothing strategy, and if it fails, a couple of decades hence we're going to see Republicans pretending they loved it all along, just like they do today with Medicare.

-- Paul Waldman

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