Since the 2010 midterm election which ushered in the age of the Tea Party, Republicans have rallied against Obama’s premiere policy, the Affordable Care Act. From talk of socialism to charges of death panels, Obamacare was painted as a fundamental transformation of American healthcare policy. These talking points just part and parcel with a broader campaign to paint Obama as a radical shift away from the Republican idealized America.
Tea Party members rallied around the country to oppose the Affordable Care Act. Chanting about no socialized health care while giving people like John Stewart sound bytes such as “keep the government out of my medicare” to lampoon to the millions of Americans who voted for that change. Despite attempts to mock and disregard Republican grassroots energy, their representatives heard them loud and clear, quickly passing bill after bill to dismantle and repeal the ACA.
Each month was met with a new attempt to subvert Obama’s premiere legislation. Eventually House Republicans passed over 50 separate attempts at subverting the ACA, each one either died in the senate or was promptly vetoed by Obama. And Republicans knew that was exactly what would happen if they passed those bills, so they pushed them through to get all the political points they possibly could for symbolically repealing the legislation. Republicans never really made any real progress, but they never really expected to.
Now that Donald Trump is president and Republicans control both houses of congress, repealing Obamacare is an obvious legislative priority. Except Republicans have so long blindly opposed everything that working together to push meaningful legislation is seemingly impossible.
House Republicans have allegedly crafted a bill so conservative Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said it “wouldn’t get 10 votes in the senate.” Furthermore the most conservative side of the House Republicans, the “freedom caucus” squirmed when Donald Trump pitched the word tax credit during his joint address to congress. Basically all of them agree on that one thing, new spending or subsidies is just flat out unacceptable. Anything else and Republicans are a fractious group that can’t agree on anything. Rand Paul is running around the capital live streaming his “search for the House GOP health care bill” which he claimed was locked away in some hidden room on capitol hill. All while Donald Trump has consistently failed to lead or push any sort of substantive policy toward his colleagues on the hill.
Considering Obamacare successfully provided healthcare to over 20 million people, finding a way to reel it in while also minimizing negative impact is incredibly important. Which is why there are numerous plans floating around which push the repeal off until past the 2018 midterms even, as to minimize any political blowback. But that strategy highlights a much bigger problem for the Republican Party. Despite years of rhetoric, they are crafting plans explicitly designed to keep kicking the can down the road for as much as two years.
Republicans were the party of anti-Obamacare for almost a decade. Almost a decade. For the better part of ten years they’ve traveled the country, hosted town halls, appeared on news shows, and written columns bashing the ACA. Ted Cruz even helped shut down the federal government, all to stop Obamacare. But all the while they never actually had any real plan to stop Obamacare.
There are a lot of ideas resembling a plan floating about, but it’s going to be a while to see if they can tape together their fragments into something resembling an Obamacare repeal and replace.