“While this president is in office, repealing this full law is not realistic and not the best use of our efforts.”- Rep. Mike Castle
Representative Castle has indicated that he will not support efforts to repeal HCR, dubbing them “unrealistic.” Good, we need to focus on legislative goals that are realistic and attainable, like fixing some of the most egregious problems with HCR, not set ourselves up for future defeat with a sure-to-fail agenda.
Like Rep. Castle, I also opposed the passage of HCR. For my own part, I think Dave Burris summed it up best: HCR is healthcare funding reform, not healthcare reform. Still, I think it is a tactical error for the GOP to make repeal of the law a key campaign item particularly since calls for repeal are often paired with talk-radio style apocalyptics over the passage of HCR. Folks, that is a huge mistake. Both tone and substance matter and, if we’re not careful, we risk getting both wrong.
One of the major problems with “repeal” as a campaign slogan for November, 2010 is that many of HCR’s negative consequences are deferred while its benefits are, often, immediate. As Arthur Green has written on FrumForum:
Republicans counting on Obamacare’s unpopularity to deliver them a win in November seem likely to face disappointment. An honest look at the package shows it’s masterfully designed to deliver a lot of meaningful favors to groups likely to reward Democrats at the polls in November. In particular, senior citizens and middle class families all get immediate benefits while the important costs and externalities resulting from the package won’t take place for some time. Democrats are right to think that people will like the package…
Some of the major problems with HCR- funding, the long-term impact on the public debt & state budgets, and its potential to lead to rationing or declines in the standard of care will take years to make themselves manifest:
Higher taxes, the potential of waiting lists, and some employers’ decision to drop coverage and the like won’t happen until 2014 or after.
To reiterate, the deferred nature of the systemic problems embedded in HCR means that they will not be facially apparent “realities” for voters in November, 2010. This problem is exacerbated by the tone and tenor of the rhetoric some conservatives have used in the debate leading up to the passage of HCR, much of which had a millenialist “end of the world as we know it” flavor. Well, HCR passed and…. the sun rose the next morning… the markets did not crash… life goes on.
Long-term the path to victory in 2010 and beyond for the GOP begins with re-capturing our former status as “the party of ideas.” It is critical for our nation and her future that we foster the development of a mature and responsible conservatism capable of opposing the Obama administration and it’s agenda with real, concrete, policy solutions. As another blogger on FrumForum has observed:
We should bring policies to the voters. Many obsess over repeal, but instead of turning the clock back to last year, conservatives should focus on offering real solutions to health care….
Conservatives are angry that Obama apparently neglected [the power of free markets] in his recent reform package, and we have every right to be. But anger over statism won’t end statism—only policy proposals can do that. To provide and implement them we must abandon vitriol and embrace the intellectual legwork that true conservatism demands. Instead of verbal attacks on socialism, we should try actually offering solutions based on capitalism.
Rather then crying “socialism” and setting ourselves up for future failure by setting unrealistic near-term objectives, we’d do well to maintain a thoughtful tone and attack HCR with specific policy counterproposals designed to “reform” it. In other words, rather than being shrill and reactive, let’s put the Democrats on the defensive; and let’s make them play defense on the worst possible ground.
Here are just a few ideas about how to select that battleground. First, let’s parse out the most egregious tax hikes or mandates in HCR and argue for their repeal and/or amendment. We have a better chance of repealing some of the worst aspects of the new law if we uncouple them from the bill’s positive aspects, and tackle them on their individual merits. Separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, is always a good strategy.
By way of example, I’d imagine a great deal of support for the repeal of the sweetheart “backroom deals” made to secure the passage of HCR- the Louisiana Purchase and the Cornhusker Kickback being merely two of the best known and most egregious examples.
Targeting the enforcement provisions for the individual mandate is a second inviting line of attack. For example, Republicans in Congress could introduce legislation repealing funding for the IRS needed for enforcement. Alternatively, we could also introduce legislation that would permit states to, if they so chose, opt-out of the individual mandate provisions in HCR.
At the same time, introducing legislation that would expand the exchange mandate to congressional leadership and staff, the President, and the Vice President has much to commend it. Such a move would put the Democrats in the awkward position of explaining to the nation why the same rules they just served up to the rest of the country ought not apply to them.
These are just examples.
Every child knows there are no “do-overs” in freeze tag or other games. That’s also true in politics. Win or lose in November, we can’t turn back the clock on HCR; we’d do well to adjust to this reality and position ourselves for future success rather then re-hashing battles already fought, and lost. While President Obama is in office, we have as much chance of commanding the flow of the tide as we do repealing HCR. Better then to focus on winnable battles over the repeal and/or modification of some of its provisions- battles that will put the Democrats in the uncomfortable position of defending the bill’s least popular elements.