Tuesday, January 11, 2011

GOP walks unarmed into health-care repeal battle

Ed. note: Most of our posts the past few days have, understandably, been on the Arizona shooting. We'll have more on that terrible story, but now let's turn back to Congress and the House Republicans' effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This is the first of two excellent posts by Nicholas on that very topic. The second will appear tomorrow. -- MJWS


It would take more than a golden parachute from Goldman Sachs, more than a harem of Argentinian mistresses, more than a closet full of George Soros puppets, and more than lifetime supply of loofahs combined to convince President Obama and the Democratic Party to undo the most historical piece of legislation passed in decades.

And yet Republicans have decided that their first order of Congressional business as the majority party in the House will be to attempt to overturn a 2,000-page health-care reform law that took Congress an entire calendar year to pass, and to replace it with a two-paragraph repeal bill that has virtually no chance of becoming law.

To expect that the very lawmakers responsible for crafting such legislation will turn around a year later and completely scrap it is about as logical as placing a lemon on the sacrificial alter and praying to God for a Ferrari. Republicans would have more luck training their pet unicorn to walk on water.

The GOP's "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act" will sail through the House of Representatives on a party-line vote only to fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Even if pigs sprouted wings and Republicans managed to convince enough Democratic senators to vote for repeal, President Obama still holds the veto pen.

So what's the point?

Is it purely symbolic, as some political analysts have proposed?

After campaigning for more than a year against "Obamacare," it could indeed be construed as hypocritical not to vote on a repeal bill, even if it is doomed to failure. The Republican Party's constituents would be livid if the men and women they elected during the 2010 midterms arrived in Washington only to abandon the promise they made on the campaign trail – the promise to return America to the days when it was legal for insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, to drop coverage when patients get sick, to charge women higher premiums than men, and to push seniors back out into the doughnut hole of prescription drug limbo.

Conversely, those same constituents were also promised a trimmed federal budget and a lower deficit, neither of which is possible if the first order of business in the new Congress is to repeal a health-care law originally projected to save $143 billion over 10 years. The latest projection – released on Jan. 6, 2011, by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office – pegs the GOP's repeal at a minimum cost of $230 billion through 2021. Not exactly an ideal vehicle for deficit reduction. 

Despite the hypocrisies, despite the facts, Republicans continue their assault.

Either I'm failing to see the purple elephant in the middle of room, or the GOP is completely delusional. If I were a gambling man – which I am – I'd put my money on the latter. Here's why:

Republicans have been playing politics for two years. As staunch defenders against all things Democratic, they have utilized the filibuster to defeat any legislation that appeared to advance the "socialistic" agenda of the Obama Administration. Rather than proposing new laws, Republicans lambasted the leftist agenda by issuing vague but apocalyptic sound bites about how this or that bill would undue the very fabric of America woven by our all-knowing founding fathers. If it wasn't unconstitutional, it was too costly – and most of the time it was both, on top of being too liberal, too socialistic, too Marxist, or just plain untimely. This was the approach to opposing even no-brainer policies such as unemployment benefits, health coverage for 9/11 first responders, and legal discourse for rape victims. And it is the easiest role to play.

What's worse, the Republican Party's obstructionist tactics became so commonplace that neither the media, nor the voters, nor the Democratic Party vigorously called out Republicans for failing to deliver honest, detailed justifications for their blind opposition.

Now that they are in charge of actually drafting legislation, Republicans are more than a bit out of practice. Pushed into a role of having to lobby fellow lawmakers to support their agenda, Republicans are about to realize that the hollow rhetoric and apocalyptic "messaging" that worked so well in scaring the piss out of the politically uninformed masses isn't going to achieve the same level of persuasiveness with members of the opposite party.

They are walking unarmed into battle. And they will lose.

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