Why would Republicans want to give up on health-care repeal?
On the subject of health-care repeal, Greg Sargent yesterday intoned that "for Republicans, there is simply no going back at this point. Whether or not they want this crusade, they are stuck with it, come what may." I'm baffled why anyone would think otherwise or imagine that Republicans feel "stuck" with their position on repeal of Obamacare.
Every single Republican member of the 112th Congress voted in favor of Obamacare's repeal. Every Republican candidate of whom I am aware ran in 2010 on repealing Obamacare. Every 2012 Republican presidential candidate -- even the one whose health-care plan provided inspiration for Obamacare -- will run on its repeal. The Republicans in the lame-duck session sunk the omnibus spending bill, in part, to deprive Obamacare of $1 trillion in funding. The Republican have no intention of "going back" on repeal of Obamacare. And while repeal of Obamacare is not going to happen before 2012, serious revision is no longer out of the question.
Yes, there is the politics of it. Greg is right in that the polling on Obamacare is more ambiguous than some Republicans admit. But among likely voters, independents and Republicans, the numbers are strongly in the GOP's favor. Moreover, Republicans, contrary to many of the poll questions, aren't in favor of repealing Obamacare; they are in favor of repealing and replacing it. For red state Democrats, Obamacare is a dagger pointed at their political future, and they know it. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) will not be the only Democrat to borrow Republican ideas to repeal the most egregious portions of the legislation.
But beyond the politics, repeal of Obamacare is central to Republicans' entire agenda and the GOP's core philosophy as a party. I commend again the State of Union response by Rep. Paul Ryan (R- Wis.), who explained the philosophical cornerstone of modern conservatism: limtied government. As a philosophical as well as a policy matter, Ryan is leading the charge to dismantle Obamacare and redesign the liberal entitlement regime.
And then there is the Constitution. Conservatives believe in their heart of hearts that the Framers (oh, yes, they take them seriously, too!) did not design a system of government that empowered the federal government to force you to buy stuff you don't want. The Commerce Clause has been twisted and expanded but not removed. Precisely at the time conservatives intuitively recoil against the expansion of debt and the Obama agenda, they are, thanks to the legal scholarship and persistence of Randy Barnett, buoyed by the possibility that there are not only political limits (what the electorate will bear) on the growth of the federal government, but enforceable constitutional ones as well.
Liberals, I suppose, are incredulous that conservative opposition to Obamacare is not only heartfelt, but based on conservatives' core beliefs about limited government and the relationship between the government and its citizens. No, conservatives aren't going back on repeal of Obamacare, nor are they going to stop being conservative.
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