The Republican Party isn’t quite done trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has promised to vote against any continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown if that resolution doesn’t “defund Obamacare.” The 2016 presidential hopeful urged his fellow lawmakers to do the same.
The rest of his speech rolled out the standard anti-Obama talking points about the 2010 law: You might lose your doctor, the insurance exchanges might not be up and running, people might take advantage of the system, and the government might have to start rationing health care. Never mind that these hypothetical situations, some of which Tea Party powerhouse Americans for Prosperity poses in a new commercial, are mostly either are simply untrue or vestiges of the pre-Obamacare health insurance landscape.
In a vacuum, this speech should come as no surprise. The Republican Party is absolutely obsessed with killing this law. As of May, the House had voted 37 times to repeal it. And we’ve dealt with multiple fiscal crises of just this sort since 2010. You would think that by now the American people would be nonplussed by the prospect of another political hostage crisis.
What's truly shocking and damaging about Rubio’s ultimatum, however, is that it reveals one of the ultimate hypocrisies of American politics. The Republican Party, its members repeatedly tell us, is the party of the “rule of law.” They respect it. They defend it. Indeed, this is the central argument against the current plan for comprehensive immigration reform that’s waiting in the House. Any plan that doles out more green cards before shoring up the border, they argue, rewards criminals. And yet Marco Rubio — and, judging by the 37 votes in the House, much of the rest of the Republican Party — just doesn’t want to accept that health care reform passed.
At this point, Senator Rubio is starting to sound like nothing more than a sore loser. According to Schoolhouse Rock, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. And if that was not enough for those who opposed it, the minority who felt the Obama administration had “rammed” the law “down the throats of America,” the Supreme Court upheld it. George W. Bush’s nominee for chief justice wrote the majority opinion. And, finally, health care reform faced the voters in the 2012 presidential election. If you didn’t like the law, you could vote for the guy who said he would “repeal and replace” it. That guy lost by 126 electoral votes.
The continued efforts to tie the basic functions of our government to the Affordable Care Act’s death represent a blatant disrespect for the wishes of every single kind of lawmaking body in this nation — the legislature, the judiciary, the executive, and the people — to score political points. No lawmaker or party that clothes itself in the “rule of law” to prevent comprehensive immigration reform should be able to get away with ignoring the same principles when convenient.
The Republican Party has done a very good job branding itself as the principled faction that sticks to its guns. With threats like this, however, it is in grave danger of tarnishing that legacy, and the political fallout will be massive.