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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Running on Repeal

The initial reaction of the Republican Congressional delegation to the historic passage of the health care reform bill seemed predictable and unequivocal.  They are going to run on repealing it in the 2010 midterm elections.

Even before the bill was passed Republicans were publicly insisting that repeal was their strategy:

While the GOP still awaits the outcome of competitive primaries in many states to pick its candidates, all of the major Senate hopefuls in Kentucky, Nevada, Kansas and Missouri have pledged “sponsor and support legislation to repeal any federal health care-takeover passed in 2010, and replace it with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government.”


“Democrats think by passing the bill they’ll be able to get it behind them and change the subject to something else, like jobs,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.), head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “But this will do the opposite. This will make sure health care is the number one issue that the election is won or lost on in November.”

Perry Bacon Jr – Health-care bill not yet a law, but Republicans already organizing to repeal it Washington Post 17 Mar 10

Only one problem.  It is not going to happen.  Unless some major game-changer appears from over the horizon, they’re pretty much screwed.

Even House Minority Leader Boehner made a conditional promise to repeal before the fact.  After passage, former Governer Romney was first off the mark and stooped to Tea Party rhetoric to make his case, saying “America has just witnessed an unconscionable abuse of power.  President Obama has betrayed his oath to the nation… :”

For these reasons and more, the act should be repealed. That campaign begins today.

Mitt Romney – A Campaign Begins Today NRO 22 Mar 10

Outspoken Senator James De Mint wasn’t far behind:

Not long after the health care reform bill was passed by the House on Sunday night, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) released a statement calling the bill an “unconstitutional,” irreparably broken “power grab” that “must be repealed.”

In his statement, he laid out plans to introduce legislation designed to do exactly that.

Jim DeMint: Health Care Bill ‘Must Be Repealed,’ Plans To Introduce Legislation Huffington Post 23 Mar 10

Others, like Senate Leader McConnel, Minority Leader Boehner, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator John McCain, Representatives Bob Inglis, Mark Kirk, Todd Tiahrt and Michelle Bachmann all clamoured immediately for repeal.  Representative Steve King even hinted at secession over it.  But not only are the electoral maths a ridiculous impossibility, not to mention the veto power of the President, they aren’t even going to run on this issue.  At least not for long.

But it will provide plenty of unwelcome backwash and turbulence for party strategists, candidates and Congressional Republicans, at least for the next few months.  You would think they would have thought this through a bit more carefully but then again, not so much.  The Republicans bet everything on one roll of the dice, and lost.  It was interesting to note Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnel’s formal statement on the eve of passage made no mention of repeal.  

Confident Democrats, sensing victory, have seen this coming for over two weeks:

And Axelrod, who was a top strategist on Obama’s 2008 campaign, said he relished the prospect of Republicans campaigning on a repeal of the legislation in 2010.

Axelrod said that the GOP would have to explain why insurance companies should once again be able to discriminate against customers on the basis of pre-existing conditions, for example.

“Let’s have that fight,” he said. “Make my day.”

Eric Zimmermann – Confident Axelrod challenges GOP: ‘Make my day’ The Hill 14 Mar 10

Caught amazingly flat-footed, swept up in their own rhetoric, it has taken a few days for the Republicans to see clearly after the dust has settled.  Former Bush speech writer and outsider Frum saw it first in a widely discussed opinion piece:

No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

David Frum – Waterloo Frum Forum 21 Mar 10

Difficult to argue with, you say?  Well it is a painful process to deconstruct eleven months of inflamed rhetoric and echo-chamber reality.  Unless you cast an eye on the polls:

PRINCETON, NJ — Nearly half of Americans give a thumbs-up to Congress’ passage of a healthcare reform bill last weekend, with 49% calling it “a good thing.” Republicans and Democrats have polar opposite reactions, with independents evenly split.

The findings, from a March 22 USA Today/Gallup poll conducted one day after the bill received a majority of votes in the U.S. House of Representatives, represent immediate reactions to the vote.

Americans’ emotional responses to the bill’s passage are more positive than negative — with 50% enthusiastic or pleased versus 42% angry or disappointed — and are similar to their general reactions.

Although much of the public debate over healthcare reform has been heated, barely a third of rank-and-file citizens express either enthusiasm (15%) or anger (19%) about the bill’s passage. However, only Democrats show greater enthusiasm than anger. Independents are twice as likely to be angry as enthusiastic, and Republicans 10 times as likely.

Lydia Saad – By Slim Margin, Americans Support Healthcare Bill’s Passage Gallup 23 Mar 10

Just one poll, to be sure, but bad luck for the punters.  Not to mention the folding of a major bankroll:

Republicans in Congress shouldn’t look to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to support a repeal of the health-care overhaul, the group’s chief executive said today.

Elizabeth Williamson – Chamber Won’t Push for Health Repeal WSJ 22 Mar 10

Ooops.  And so the race for the exits begins:

In the wake of the passage of health care reform, nearly the entire slate of Republican senatorial candidates seems ready to run on a repeal of the bill. But now, the lawmaker overseeing their election strategy is softening the message. Rather than promising to scrap the bill in its entirety, the GOP will pledge to just get rid of the more controversial parts.

In a brief chat with the Huffington Post on Tuesday, National Republican Senatorial Committee chair John Cornyn (R-Tex.) implicitly acknowledged that Republicans are content with allowing some elements of Obama’s reform into law. And they’d generally ignore those elements when taking the fight to their Democrat opponents as November approaches.

Sam Stein – NRSC’s Cornyn: We Won’t Call For Repealing All Of Health Care Huffington Post 23 Mar 10

And now the vultures are circling:

A week ago, Republicans were united and on the verge of completely commanding the political narrative between now and November. Now, with their entire strategy having been upended by the Democratic health care victory, the party is in disarray.

There is no fallback on health care — none — except to call for repeal, as conservative House lawmakers and congressional candidates

have already begun to do. But what to repeal? The “bad” stuff — tax increases and such — kick in later. Most everyone who will feel reform’s touch within the next year or so will get benefits, be it in the form of not having their coverage rescinded, or be it a $250 rebate check from the government. Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged as much by refusing to say whether Republicans actually would move to repeal legislation, or parts of it, if they manage to take control of the Senate.

Mark Ambinder – Republicans in Disarray The Atlantic 22 Mar 10

Hmmm…  Starting to get a bit messy:

Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, the poster boy for the conservative insurgency, said on Monday that he wasn’t sure whether he’d support overturning the  health care law, calling moves to do so “a little premature.” As ThinkProgress notes, “Rep. Phil Gringrey told CNN’s Rick Sanchez that he ‘does not want’ to throw out everything in the bill, noting there are many provisions-including health insurance exchanges, electronic medical  records, greater coverage for dependents, expanded Medicaid, and  increased consumer protections – that he supports.” Rudy Giuliani also opposes repealing the bill.

Suzy Khimm – Republicans Split Over Repeal Strategy Mother Jones 23 Mar 10

Well, shucks, that sounds pretty reasonable.  Pity it cuts the party roughly down the middle.  And what about all those primaries?  Signs of trouble, as a Republican pundit notes:

Less than three days after the passage of Obamacare, many Republicans are already losing their stomach for the fight. As Ezra Klein gleefully – but aptly – observes over at the Washington Post, “In about 12 hours, the GOP’s position has gone from ‘repeal this socialist monstrosity that will destroy our final freedoms’ to ‘there are some things we don’t like about this legislation and would like to repeal, and there are some things we support and would like to keep. … At this rate, they’ll be running on expanding the bill come November.”

Jeffrey H Anderson Repeal Means Repeal NRO 24 Mar 10

Ouch.  It’s slipping away.  And they have to let it go, but what the hell are they going to tell the Tea Party?


  1. creamer

    Allow those who our offended by HCR to opt out of all provisions and keep what they have. Of course they would have consent to no ER treatment without cash or a credit card.

    We could also let them opt out of medicare, medicaid and social security. Tell them to keep off our roads and out of our parks.

    It would proably easier if they just left. Maybe Somalia, they have a weak central government.

    I’m finding it harder and harder not to tell them to just get the fuck out of my country. Take your gun and your sign and your tea bagging freinds and get the fuck out.

  2. Ouch.  It’s slipping away.  And they have to let it go, but what the hell are they going to tell the Tea Party?

    Catching a tiger by the tail isn’t hard.  It’s how you deal with the other end that becomes the problem, and letting go is almost worse than hanging on.

  3. creamer

    What other conclusion can you reach. They have opposed almost every Obama goal and outside of terror trials acheived nothing. Now that the media is actually showing a link between the politicians words and the crazies actions don’t they have to be a little disullusioned.  

  4. Shaun Appleby

    Pretty predictable:

    Republicans are rushing to co-sponsor and promote efforts to repeal the bill on Capitol Hill. But not everyone is biting, exposing another fissure between the GOP’s right and far-right.

    The latest GOPers caught in the mix are in Delaware — with candidate Christine O’Donnell (R-DE) challenging Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) to sign on to repeal plans. Castle, like every single Congressional Republican, opposed the legislation. But he said that repealing “is not realistic.”


    In California, Tom Campbell (R) hasn’t signed it, but his Senate primary rivals Carly Fiorina (R) and Chuck DeVore (R) are leading the repeal charge. In the Republican primary race to in Connecticut, longshot Peter Schiff has signed the pledge but Linda McMahon and Rob Simmons have not.

    The red states have their splits too. In Indiana, former Sen. Dan Coats hasn’t jumped on board, but tea party candidate Marlin Stutzman has. In Utah, Sen. Bob Bennett (R) has a tough caucus challenge from the right. So this week he signed on as a co-sponsor of Sen. Jim DeMint’s repeal legislation.

    Christina Bellantoni – Health Care Repeal Wars Fracturing GOP Primary Candidates TPM 26 Mar 10

    Heh.  Popcorn, anyone?

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