"Repeal and Replace" Goes By the Wayside

Remember that whole "Repeal and Replace" thing Republicans were going to do about the Affordable Care Act? As Steve Benen tells us, turns out, not so much. Not only have congressional Republicans not bothered to come up with something to replace the ACA with, they're not even going to try the "repeal" part anymore either. Some conservative groups are outraged, since they appear to have been laboring under the impression that those congressional Republicans had a genuine, deeply felt hatred of the ACA and would try to kill it even if the politics didn't look so favorable for such a move.

But Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell—perhaps the most practical, unsentimental politician in Washington—says no. Why? Because there's just no margin in it. The attempt would fail in both houses, and would only reinforce the idea that the GOP is nothing but a bunch of grumpy old men who care more about taking things away from people than about helping the country. So the Republican legislative agenda this year, to the very, very limited extent there will actually be one, isn't going to be focused on health care.

If Barack Obama wins in November, it's hard to see "Repeal and Replace" making a comeback, and not only because Republicans wouldn't be able to overcome a veto of whatever they propose. The fact is that health care just isn't something they care all that much about. And your average Republican, being someone who already has health coverage, won't be all that affected when the ACA gets fully implemented in January 2014. It isn't as though Republican members of Congress are going to be besieged by angry constituents, formerly uninsured people who now receive government subsidies to get insurance. In other words, the ideological complaint won't go away, but there won't be any urgency created by the Act's implementation.

We don't know whether the ACA will succeed or fail in the long run (my money's on qualified success, for what it's worth). But if Obama gets re-elected, I'm guessing Republicans are just going to accept the inevitable and stop talking about it. Oh, they'll say the ACA is awful if anyone asks. But it isn't something they're going to be bringing up a lot, much less waging a grand battle to undo.

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