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Posted at 10:46 AM ET, 02/ 4/2011

Why would Republicans want to give up on health-care repeal?

By Jennifer Rubin

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.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 4, 2011; 10:46 AM ET
Categories:  Conservative movement  
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Next: Liberals need to take the Constitution seriously


Some in the chattering class argue that the Republicans should focus on jobs, that they are making a mistake in tackling ObamaCare and the budget. I’m not sure if the pundits are sincere in this or are just blowing smoke; methinks the latter.

Whatever the case, conservatives believe that cutting federal spending and dismembering ObamaCare will stimulate growth by removing obstacles facing businesses large and small. So get used to that, they’re going to be quite persistent.

Posted by: SCMike1 | February 4, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

The reason that the chattering classes think that Repubs should focus on jobs is because the chattering classes share the big government presumption that government creates jobs.

The Repubs should have the presumption that government, and especially this one, screw up the economy and destroy jobs, so their best efforts on behalf of jobs are killing parts of government that do that, like Obamacare.

As for Sargent, surely the party that is stuck with a crusade they have doubts about is the one that just lost several dozen seats in the last election over it.

Posted by: mgmax | February 4, 2011 11:15 AM | Report abuse

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.

Here's the problem,while OC could easily be considered unconstitutional,our current system of requiring PRIVATE healthcare providers to pay for the care of indigents is equally unconstitutional. Because the cost of that indigent care by PRIVATE hospitals and providers requires coericed spending by individuals to susidize the forced spending by the hospitals. This is accomplished by "cost shifting,higher hospital fees etc etc, to cover the outlay for the indigent.
In other words,the effects of the current system are the same as OCare,because we are currently forced to pay for the poor.

As for as repeal,all you need is a GOP president or 2/3 GOP congress.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 4, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Very, very puzzling jobs report this morning. More on that in a moment.

I come away from Sargent's column with a more narrow take. I have been saying since Vinson that Obama needs to gets his people together and find out if he's in front of the wave, or going to be inundated by it. Essentially he needs to lay odds on a SCOTUS decision, not only the outcome but the timing.

A decision against him by election 2012, insures his defeat I think. However the reverse may also be true as the Sargent column inartfully points out. A psoitive decision by 2012 knocks one of the big legs out from under the GOP.

Which brings me to this morning's puzzling report. Unemployment dropped to 9% but the economy only added 36,000 jobs. Essentially this means that people who are actively looking for work found it at a higher rate, but very few people began anew to actively seek employment.

I would be astonished if this figure was not revised upward in the coming months, but it is what it is. Were this trend to continue into 2012, the GOP would have no shot at the presidency, absent an unfavorable SCOTUS ruling on health care, and the Dems would probably retain the Senate.

How it matters today, is in the decision making of the potential contenders for the nomination. I'm guessing they will make their decision by this summer. If unemployment drops below 9% by then look for all the big guns to step aside and the GOP will have to throw somebody to the wolves, like Dole in 1996 and McCain in 2008, wihtout any shot at winning.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 4, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Are people settling for jobs they don't want, making much less money than they previously did? Is that a polled question?

Posted by: aardunza | February 4, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Amazing survey on what Americans think of the healthcare bill.

It's amazing how many people have not read the bill but want it repealed. Is that ignorance?

Posted by: michiganman44 | February 4, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse


Re: ObamaCare Repeal

I'm not sure about your analysis. To the extent that winning, both substantively and in respect of moral is a good thing (and it is) a repeal should help Rs and and holding it unconstitutional should help Obama.

However, Repeal might diminish the urgency of defeating Obama for some/many(?) conservatives/independents while its upholding would infuriate them and increase the importance of defeating him. By contrast liberals might be especially angered and motivated in the first instance.

I'm not saying that your prediction will not prove to be accurate. I am saying that a) the reaction will vary from individual to individual and b) that I won't venture to guess as to what the effects will be among the different groups within the polity and what will be the net electoral result.

Another factor to keep in mind is the economic consequence of the Court striking ObmaCare. These are certain to be beneficial and bordering on colossal. To be sure, they will not have had a chance to work themselves through before the election but even the immediate effect, in the last quarter leading up to November is bound to be meaningful and will benefit Obama.

*There is some polling evidence that Obama's increased popularity comes in part from a lessening of conservative/independent opposition. Anecdotally, two of my friends confirm this polling. Both are moderate New Yrok Rs who supported McCain in the primaries but then both voted for Obama (in one case with some degree of enthusiasm) in the election. Both turned against him decisively and in large part because of health care. The intensity of the disapproval has, however, decreased notably in the last couple of months but both remain opposed to ObamaCare. I had dinner with one of them earlier this week - she'd just returned from after spending time in Europe on business - and posed this very question. From her answer I'm quire sure that the survival or nonsurvival of Obamacare will at least as, and probably more important than the identity of the Republican challenger (that is to say she is much more likely to vote for him if it is struck down).

Posted by: cavalier4 | February 4, 2011 3:03 PM | Report abuse


Re: Unemployment

Puzzling. The last two months the prediction has been for slight upticks in the Unemployment number with reasonably decent job creating. In the event there have been two fairly steep drops in the UE rate and poor (December) and atrocious (January job creating). Clearly the top line # is diverging from reality. People are either finding jobs or they are not; their friends and relatives are either doing so or not; the businesses they work for are . either hiring or not. The last two month the jobs created number would seem to reflect this reality much better than the UE Rate and to the extent this trend continues the political value of the Rate will be more or less significantly attenuated at the time of the election.

I have not special insight about specifics but I am quite confident (and more so after SOTU) that Obama's policies will inhibit economic growth to the point where he will be beatable by an effective challenger but also believe that the R House, reduced Senate majority and the economic cycle will assure sufficiently robust growth that the challenger will have to be very effective indeed. Any Republican who would fail to recognize this and would drop out simply because of a deceptively low UE % would almost certainly lack the clarity of vision and the firmness that would be needed to defeat Obama in such a competitive dynamic and his (or her withdrawal would be no loss at all, whatever such a prospective challengers apparent "strength" would be.

Posted by: cavalier4 | February 4, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse


You're correct of course the the UE rate will not be a sole determinative factorin choosing whether or not to run, but it will be a headline grabber, as it has been for about 28-30 months now.

The level of primary and secondary education for business and fiancial purposes in this country is less than the committment to the study of 100 year old British literature. (my child just finished "Heart of Darkness" in senior year but she has never heard about commoditites or currencies from anybody but me)

Having said that, look for the published UE rate to be more politically decisive than the U6 rate.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 4, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans knew they couldn't run against the Democrats in 2012 if the Democrats managed to succeed at health care reform. But now the shoe is potentially on the other foot; the Republicans can't afford to become known as the party who prevented it. It's just a big chess game.

Posted by: gzuckier | February 5, 2011 12:46 AM | Report abuse

Republicans are the disease of this country. When they say limited Govt. they mean killing food safety legislation. Killing legislation to stop fraud and abuse in our Govt. Letting Wall Street rob the country blind. Giving natural gas companies the right to poison the whole country's water supply, which they have already done with their fracturing. More of Dick Cheney's back-room energy policy that tosses oversight out the door. Now people are drinking a toxic stew of chemicals. I hear the Pubtards are even out to redefine rape now. After they do, it'll probably be legal to rape women and lock them in shipping containers. Then they won't have to stand up and vote for the rapists anymore, like they did with Halliburton. Republicans never really did care about women, they even voted against Obama's equal pay for equal work women. Women are still second class citizens in Pubtard land. I guess the 9,11 first responders fall in the second class citizen range, too. Second class to no class. But big corporate slobs are the cream of the crop. God I hate Republicans!

Posted by: HemiHead66 | February 5, 2011 1:19 AM | Report abuse

"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."

What a bunch of hooey! Conservatives, in their heart of hearts, are the ones that proposed the individual mandate. That happened in committee, as a compromise for the Dems to drop the single payor approach. Now they have packaged this up, after the fact, as a fight for "liberty."

So tell me what "stuff you don't want" might be - are you actually saying the people without health insurance don't want it? All the people squawking about this are people who have jobs and health insurance. The people who don't do not have a voice in this debate.

People without health care insurance want it desparately, but they cannot afford it if their employers do not supply it. Individual insurance is very high, obviously if you are not working you must pay yourself for Cobra until that runs out, then you are stuck. This reform makes it more affordable, and for the very needy it provides subsidies to make it even more affordable.

The mandate makes the numbers all work. The mandate was a conservative, Republican idea that was incorporated into the bill against Obama's wishes, as a compromise. This "liberty" ruse is just that, a ruse with no substance.

Posted by: mandelm2001 | February 7, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

replace it with what? i pray the medicare drug benefit isn't the model. i know paying more for less is popular with republican contributors, it's not a great idea for the country.

Posted by: diveguy99 | February 7, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

replace it with what? for 8 years republicans ran govt and the best they did was the medicare drug benefit.

i pray the medicare drug benefit isn't the model. i know paying more for less is popular with republican contributors, but it's not a great idea for the country.

Posted by: diveguy99 | February 7, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans have an obligation to the citizenry to disassemble the horrendous healthcare mess cobbled by the troika of Obama-Pelosi and Reid.

The certifiable mess they created is 100% political with almost no regard for the ability of the nation to adapt to it and more importantly, pay for it!

They didn't really care what was in the legislation as long as it included their talking points - and financing it be damned.

Getting rid of the entire mess will enable Congress to OPENLY debate provisions of an operable and viable plan.

Posted by: Hazmat77 | February 7, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

If the Republicans had been willing to talk (other than saying "No") when the Access to Affordable Health Care bill was being worked out, perhaps they wouldn't be crying foul now. But who in good conscience and their right mind would say that access to affordable health care is not in the best interests of this country, to keep us competitive with our EU and other allies (nearly all of whom afford this benefit to their citizenry and can show longer life expectancies for it). Affordable Health Care act is much better than the Republican death panel advice of just die if you can't afford health care. Conservatives are without a conscience, and they are proud of it, only they cloak themselves in the American flag while holding onto the bible in one hand and the Constitution in the other so you won't see how totaly devoid of conscience they are. Fortunately, many of us see through the nasty and mean-spirited charade.

Posted by: eal1 | February 7, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer Rubin wrote: "Republicans, contrary to many of the poll questions, aren't in favor of repealing Obamacare; they are in favor of repealing and replacing it."

No one with functioning neurons believes that the Republicans actually want to replace Obamacare with anything that will come CLOSE to covering the tens of millions uninsured. Many of them say so themselves. WHAT replacement legislation . . .

(thought so)

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | February 7, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

If the Republicans could come up with a health care system for America like the taxpayer-funded, Federal subsidized plan they have, then they might get some of us to listen to them. Right now they have no "replacement" plan of their own, so it's time to put up or shut up.

Posted by: lddoyle2002 | February 7, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure republicans won't give it up but they will lose. American seniors received $250 last year as a first installment when the bill went into effect, are republicans going to ask grandma to send the money back if they "repeal"it? Republicans lied about death panels for a solid year. Anyone point to a single person appointed to a "death panel"? Anyone point to a single person killed by a "death panel"? What republicans ar going to argue that we should go back to when insurance companies could exclude people because of pre-existing conditions?

Republicans tried to destroy social security and medicare for decades and they couldn't kill that either. They will spend the next twenty years trying to destroy health care but big wup, they are always against any hint of progress.

Posted by: treefrog2 | February 7, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

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