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Will Republicans repeal health-care reform in 2012?


Telling the Republican base that you'll repeal health-care reform might prove a popular applause line in 2012, but I doubt it's actually worth worrying about. Democrats did the same thing with No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D, but neither program was ever in any actual danger, and the election of an actual Democratic Congress and an actual Democratic president have done nothing to imperil their future. Similarly, the frenzy over the stimulus did not result in red states rejecting much of the money.

There's just not much precedent for changes in partisan power ending in the repeal of large pieces of recently passed legislation. In part, that's due to the nature of the Senate: Repeal requires 60 votes as surely as passage. Undoing health-care reform will be about as hard as doing health-care reform. And a Republican president isn't going to want to spend his or her time battling the Obama administration's achievements. They're going to want to spend their time enacting their own agenda.

Photo credit: By Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

By Ezra Klein  |  November 17, 2009; 2:41 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Next: Is Blanche Lincoln canny or misinformed?


Someone asked whether repeal could be done under reconciliation even if the original bill was done through the normal order.
Saying that the Republicans won't do something because the Democrats didn't do it is a non sequitur.

Posted by: _SP_ | November 17, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Exactly. Republicans and Democrats behave in virtually identical ways. I'm waiting breathlessly for the next installment of Ezra's serial novel, "I'm not that worried about Joe Lieberman's filibuster threat because he'll do the right thing in the end . . ."

Posted by: scarlota | November 17, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

If the reform bill passes, the Republican surge will be unstoppable and immediate, and Obama will be forced to agree to repeal in 2010 if he has any hope of reelection -- no need to wait until 2012.

Posted by: MeInTheMiddle | November 17, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

They certainly won't repeal it in 2012, because the Democrats will still run the White House then. It's possible that Obama will lose in 2012, Republicans will take both chambers, and Republicans will decide that they want to repeal health reform. Color me highly skeptical that that would happen.

Posted by: davestickler | November 17, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

It will be hard to repeal something that hasn't passed.

The Obama Record: Record unemployment, record deficits, no legislative accomplishments.

Posted by: Bob65 | November 17, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, let me start by correcting you:

The bill passed by the House is NOT reform of any kind.

Secondly, you're making a BIG assumption that this POS legislation is even going to be passed by the Senate. If it is, then they're dumber than ever anticipated and they already rank pretty low on the intelligence scale.

And we don't need to wait until 2012 for real change. One year to go....

Posted by: RobParker | November 17, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse


Talk about putting the cart before the horse. First, health insurance "reform" must pass the Senate and the House bill is losing moderate Democrat support every day.

This may force Harry Reid to try and pass a bill by reconcilitation which would only require 51 votes.

Either way if a bill passes with a significant negative impact on the middle and upper class you can kiss the Democratic majority in the Senate and possibily the House goodbye in 2010. The voter backlash will be on an epic scale never seen before in the history of the USA.

The majority of the American public is very upset about the Wall Street bailouts, the failed stimulus package and the HUGH deficit as a result.

The longer Obama "the anointed messiah" continues down this path the more likely that he will be defeated in 2012 and his legacy may make Jimmy Carter look like a triumphant success as President.

Posted by: King2641 | November 17, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

"They're going to want to spend their time enacting their own agenda."

Unless, as you've hinted a few times lately, you are talking about Democrats, in which case "they're going to want to spend their time trying to look moderate so as to perpetuate their majority, even at the price of failure to accomplish a huge fraction of what they supposedly stand for."

Posted by: JonathanTE | November 17, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Both Democrats and Republicans will repeal national health insurance in 2012.

After growing unemployment, and continuous extensions of unemployment benefits and growing numbers of Americans dependent upon food stamps, the federal government will not be able to afford national health insurance by 2012.

At this point no economist or government official can offer a solution to the growing unemployment problem.

After the announcement of the a dubious growth in GNP, three companies announced job layoffs of over 10,000 jobs, Johnson and Johnson, Electronic Arts, and Advanced Manufacturing.

Yes jobs follow growth but in 1930's this took ten years.

Posted by: bsallamack | November 17, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse


I generally agree on this point, but there is precedent for repealing big-ticket legislation. Medicare Catastrophic passed in 1988, only to be repealed the following year. Of course, that measure had the trappings of bipartisanship both in implementation and when it was repealed.

Posted by: jbjohnso | November 17, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

These comments disagreeing with Ezra assume that people won't like the provisions of the health care bill that take effect immediately. I think most people will actually like what happens in the short term and that will make the country relax a little about the full bill taking effect. Plus, there is no way the Republicans are going to be able to take over the House and Senate in veto proof majorities by 2012.

Posted by: StokeyWan | November 17, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Repealing it after it has had several years to be implemented would run into a wall of political opposition on all levels, so I doubt they'd do it wholesale. What they could do, though, is gut key components of it, rendering the reform worthless.

Posted by: guardsmanbass | November 17, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

These comments disagreeing with Ezra assume that people won't like the provisions of the health care bill that take effect immediately. I think most people will actually like what happens in the short term and that will make the country relax a little about the full bill taking effect. Plus, there is no way the Republicans are going to be able to take over the House and Senate in veto proof majorities by 2012.

Posted by: StokeyWan | November 17, 2009 4:33 PM |

Don't need veto-proof majorities if we have the White House : ).

Keep doing what you're doing. We'll be patient and let the Democrats hang themselves in the meantime.

Posted by: RobParker | November 17, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I never knew we had so many myopic Republicans in this town.

Posted by: trambusto | November 17, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Independents will do it if Republicans won't.

In fact, these people have intent to remove all credibility from any signatures of the Fed 2009

BEAR REVOLT was started by Veterans ( Czar nick named terrorists) seeking to empower the active troops with a clear documentation of the majority's will of the people via archival quality hardbound petitions (signatured by all men, women, and children who have No Confidence this 2009 Federal Government). The signed petitions are being entered into County recordations offices as a "recorded document", then pooled and placed as a" Document" into the Library of Congress by the people of each State.

The well documented majority with " no confidence" can allow the defenders of the US Constitution the ability to carry out the "will of the majority", and allow an emergency election

It seeks to void void all signatures of the current Fed 2009, and hence can retro to do it.
This Redress call was named when Pelosi went to THE BEAR REPUBLIC of California , threw imported ACORNS at their heads,
then called them astroturf and walked on their backs with her spikey heels out the door absolutely refusing to listen to them saying NO.


The REDRESS of the 2009 Federal Government of the United States of America
By the recall of :
The Congress, (all names listed both Partys)
The Hill , ( all names listed both Partys)
The Cabinet, (all names listed)
The Czars, ( all names listed)
Barack Hussein Obama ( all "currently" known names listed: Barack Hussein Soroeto, Barack Hussein Dunham )

Posted by: dottydo | November 17, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Republicans will repeal Obamacare. But they will run against it forever, which will be even more damaging to progressive causes. This is why progressives must loudly disavow this sham reform.

Posted by: bmull | November 17, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

The republicans won't even be over their civil war much less be able to make substantial gains in 2010 or 2012. As evidenced by the teabag posts in not only this article but all over Wapo the wing nuts are fired up and are not about to drop the fight anytime soon. They do so at their own peril. The sooner they realize that Reagan-era conservativism is dead, the better off they will be.

Posted by: zackool | November 17, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Even if they win, they probably won't repeal. No country that has instituted public healthcare has ever repealed it. None would dream of going back to a primitive American/medieval-style system.

Look at the conservative parties in Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia etc. They are all terrified of being associated in the public mind with healthcare re-privatisation.

At election time, they all bend over backwards in their promises to strengthen and respect the public system.

The same can be seen in America with Medicare. Republicans fought tooth and nail against the creation of Medicare. Now, fighting Obama's reform, one of the first charges they level is that it will weaken Medicare.

The only caveat to this argument is that if Obama's reform is too weak, if the change is too slight, then the public won't perceive the benefits, and thus they won't develop the loyalty to public healthcare that makes conservatives in other countries so terrified of being seen as its enemies.

Posted by: kevrobb | November 17, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: donaldtucker | November 17, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Agenda? What agenda? Their agenda is simple: Do nothing. They've made it into a form of high political art.

Posted by: cmckeonjr | November 17, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

No, they'll just increase the copays, and bring back HSAs if someone kills those. Published costs coupled with high deductibles and co-pays are the best way to bring down the cost of health care by encouraging disruptive innovation.

Once we do that, it will be much simpler to extend Medicaid to more people, at differential rates of reimbursement.

Posted by: staticvars | November 17, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

How can someone taken a poster seriously when they snark, "Obama, the anointed Messiah"? Seriously you sound like idiots when you say that. Every other point you make might be thoughtful and reasoned, but then POOF, here comes the wingnut language, and you have to ignore everything else you say because you lost credibility. You are not doing yourselves any favors.

Posted by: suenaustin | November 18, 2009 2:55 AM | Report abuse

There goes Ezra, trying to build up the big mo for the inevitibility of Obamacare. It is most definitely not inevitable and even if the Democrats jam it through using reconcilliation then the Republicans, after winning big in 2010, can repeal it. Also, they'd get another shot in 2012 since the majority of Obamacare doesn't even kick in until 2013 after Obama is out of office.

Posted by: RobT1 | November 18, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

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