For over a year now, the Republican Party has made it their fervent mission to repeal the Affordable Care Act, euphemistically known as “Obamacare.” The repeal of the unpopular yet hallmark achievement of President Obama has been a rallying cry for conservatives and libertarians on the right. Repeal became a litmus test for Republican candidates during the primaries. At the same time, it became a dividing point between the eventual Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, and his field of challengers.
Speaker of the House John Boehner appeared to concede defeat when in an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer the speaker said “Well, I think the election changes that. It's pretty clear that the president was reelected, Obamacare is the law of the land.” But it doesn’t appear that the right is ready to give up the pursuit to repeal, modify or replace the law.
In an op-ed piece for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Boehner indicated that Obamacare is “on the table” in the debt reduction talks. Boehner stated that “The tactics of our repeal efforts will have to change. I have noted there are essentially three major routes to repeal of the president’s law: the courts, the presidential election process and the congressional oversight process. With two of those three routes having come up short, the third and final one becomes more important than ever.”
We should all be familiar with the Republican version of congressional oversight. It is the process that they used to obstruct progress, and it was the primary cause for the U.S. losing its credit rating, and it has us careening towards the fiscal cliff. The Republicans are so fixated on Obamacare that they have voted 33 times to repeal the law, the last vote being in July 2012. That is an average of over once a month since the bill was signed into law in March 2010; more than that if you consider that they didn’t assume the majority position in the House until January 2011. How’s that for effective oversight?
The Republicans, including conservatives and libertarians, appear hell bent on violating federal law and the Constitution in pursuing their fight against Obamacare. In Wisconsin “nine [Republican] lawmakers have said they back a bill to arrest any federal officials who try to implement the health care law.” The Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports that Campaign for Liberty, a libertarian organization founded by Ron Paul, “endorses a notion being promoted by conservatives called nullification that holds that under the 10th Amendment states can ignore federal laws if they choose.” The effort is led by Republican State Representative Chris Kapenga who said “he believes the health care law is unconstitutional, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that it passes constitutional muster.”
State officials are threatening to not implement the state health exchanges defined in Obamacare. A health insurance exchange is a set of state-regulated and standardized health care plans from which individuals may purchase health insurance eligible for federal subsidies. All exchanges must be fully certified and operational by January 1, 2014 under Obamacare.
This effort was led by Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (Minn.) who along with “12 U.S. Senators and 61 other representatives sent a letter to all 50 governors urging them to oppose the implementation of the state health care exchanges mandated under the Affordable Care Act.” So far 16 states, 14 of them led by Republican governors, have defaulted to a federally facilitated exchange rather than set up a state sponsored exchange.
Michael Cannon of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute says “Obamacare is still vulnerable.” In an article written for the National Review, he reported that 14 states have “enacted either statutes or constitutional amendments (or both) forbidding state employees to participate in an essential exchange function: implementing Obamacare's individual and employer mandates.” All 14 states are either led by Republicans (12) or have a Republican-majority legislature (2).
Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott is one who has conceded in his fight against Obamacare. Scott, one of the staunchest critics of Obamacare, vowed to not implement the state exchanges but has recently changed his position and is moving forward. According to Human Events, “In a speech to the 2012 National Lawyers Convention hosted by The Federalist Society, Scott confirmed he is working with Obama’s administration to implement its health care reforms.” Scott said “The election is over. I will sit down with Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius and see if we can work out a way that reduces costs, improves access and improves quality.” Maybe Scott caved because, as reported by WPTV, “Florida had the nation's third-highest rate of residents without health insurance the past three years, according to census data.”
Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, says “the battlefront now shifts to citizen and state resistance.” Writing for Forbes’ Magazine, Turner explained that “states, individuals, and companies are going to find new ways to rebel against a law that is simply wrong for America.” Turner pointed out that “nearly 35 lawsuits against the law continue to make their way through the courts.” Have you ever seen such a committed effort by a group of people, conservatives and libertarians on the right, to deny others what they already possess – health insurance?
Turner, Cannon and others continue to point out that Obamacare is unpopular. Cannon said “the latest Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that only 38% of the public supports it.” You know who finds Obamacare really popular? People who need and want health insurance but have been unable to get it because employers won’t offer insurance or they have a pre-existing condition.
This appears to be a running theme with Republican-led states. They are the poorest in the nation. They pay the least in federal income tax, yet receive the most in federal “handouts" (their word, not ours).They have the highest percentage of uninsured residents, receive the most in SNAP (food stamps) and TANF (welfare) benefits per capita and have the highest percentage of residents who pay no income tax. Yet they say it is Democrats and blue states that are brainwashed and victimized. And now they want to secede. You think they can take their share of the debt with them?
Dana Milbank writing for the Washington Post explained “It would be excellent financial news for those of us left behind if Obama were to grant a number of the rebel states their wish. It would give us the opportunity to create what would be, in a fiscal sense, a far more perfect union.”
Notable among those that rallied against Obamacare was Michele Bachman, who correctly predicted that if she were not elected, Obamacare would become the law of the land. Rick Santorum opined that Romney would be the worst candidate to debate Obama on health care since Obamacare was modeled on the legislation Romney created and enacted as governor of Massachusetts. Bachman and Santorum were both right: Obamacare is the law of the land, it won’t be repealed, and Romney noticeably had to pivot from his position of “repeal” during the Republican primary to a more politically astute position of “replace” during the general election.
The Republicans felt that they had the will of the people and the law of the land on their side. They were confident that they would be successful in repealing Obama’s landmark and historical legislation. They were dealt a serious setback when the Supreme Court refused to overturn the law and in fact validated that the law was constitutional. Stunned by the decision of the conservative court, which was made possible when the conservative Chief Justice John Roberts apparently switched sides and voted with the liberal judges, the Republicans set their sights on overturning the law through the legislature.
That effort blew up in their face when the Democrats retained their majority position in the Senate and Obama was reelected to serve a second term.