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The Unbearable Lightness of GOP Health Care “Policy”


As I’ve explained recently, all Republican health care proposals share two salient features: 1)they’re some degree of terrible, and 2)no Republican legislator of any influence has any desire to pass one under any circumstances. I see that the GOP has retreated from their latest Potemkin plan in record time. Chait explains the scam perfectly:

Once it was no longer useful as a weapon to stop universal health insurance, the Republican health-care plan had to be abandoned. This was the fate of every Republican health-care plan, a durable pattern I call the Heritage Uncertainty Principle. Republican health-care proposals reside in a state of quasi-existence, and any attempt to summon them into political reality will cause them to disappear. Their purpose is to refute the accusation that Republicans lack a health-care plan. The elusive quasi-plan allows them to claim all the potential benefits of health-care reform without having to defend any drawbacks. The game offers Republicans advantages they are unlikely to forfeit for the rest of the Obama era.

The rapidly approaching dilemma for Republicans is that the endgame of preserving the status quo no longer helps them.

A couple additional observations. First of all, in the unique legislative context of 2010, the strong Republican commitment to opposing any health care reform was a major plus, as David Frum cost himself a job by pointing out. Senate Republicans unquestionably had the leverage to make the ACA substantially worse, given the number of Democratic senators who above any other policy or political interest wanted some token bipartisan affirmation. Whether this was a bad gamble at the time from their perspective is debatable — the intransigence could have worked, as reflected by the number of Democrats (not all of them conservatives) who urged Obama to abandon health care reform, and the ability of Reid to keep his entire caucus together seems ever more remarkable in retrospect. But a Republican Party with any actual health care reform policy it wanted to pass could have done a lot of damage, so for once we can be thankful for mindless obstructionism.

Second, the audience for the scam seems to be getting increasingly narrow. The Hatch/Coburn plan didn’t seem to get a lot of media attention. Even progressives who hilariously and pathetically think that John Chafee’s 1993 legislation was a serious Republican offer didn’t seem to think that the 2009 Ryan/Coburn plan was even though it was similar in content and identical in purpose. The remaining marks would seem to be the small group of conservative “reformers” who apparently can be made to run by Lucy just sort of gesturing in the vague direction of an empty space where a football might theoretically be.

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