In what has become the second-longest running joke in American politics, House Republicans voted once again Wednesday to repeal ObamaCare. We’re told that this time — roughly the 60th time, depending on how you count — is different because with the Senate’s concurrence, this repeal bill will actually be sent to President Obama, who will of course veto it.
In other words, this week’s show vote is equally futile as all the previous show votes. It’s just futile in a slightly different way, which I suppose is what passes for a major victory among the victory-starved.
And let’s be precise about what they’ve voted to do. Congressional Republicans have voted overwhelmingly to strip at least 22 million Americans of the health-care coverage that they rely upon for medical care, according to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office. And they have taken that dramatic step while having no plan of their own to even attempt to replace that coverage.
When asked about that obvious shortcoming, House Speaker Paul Ryan had an interesting response:
Just wait? It is now January of 2016. Obamacare was signed into law in March of 2010. And after all this time, when they’re asked for their replacement proposal, the answer from Republican leaders is “just wait”?
And that of course answers the question that I left dangling up above: The longest running joke in American politics is the endlessly repeated promise of Republican leaders to someday produce their own alternative to health-care reform. It just goes on and on and …
Note the date of the screengrab: Oct. 27, 2009, five months before ObamaCare was even signed into law. And that’s not even the real beginning of this charade. As the story in The Hill noted at the time, then-House Minority Leader Eric Cantor was promising as far back as June of 2009 that a GOP leadership alternative to ObamaCare was just “weeks away.”
Some 287 weeks have come and gone, and it’s still “just wait.” We were also promised the Republican reform plan in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and still it has never come. It raises an obvious question: If ObamaCare is truly as bad as the Republicans claim, and if easier, better options are as simple as they have long pretended, then why on Earth haven’t we seen this supposed alternative? Why, almost six years later, are we still hearing “just wait”?
It’s certainly possible that this time it will be different. It’s plausible if not likely that sometime this year, Republicans will indeed manage to cobble together a health-care plan that they will try to claim as their alternative. But if so, let me make a prediction. No, let me make an ironclad guarantee:
If the Republicans do rally around a supposed ObamaCare alternative, I absolutely 100 percent guarantee that they will not have the guts to bring that proposal up for a vote.
Because any Republican plan that is ambitious enough to cover a significant number of Americans will be rejected by the Republican base on the grounds that it is socialism. Conversely, any Republican plan that the base can embrace will by definition do almost nothing to cover the tens of millions of Americans who would be left stranded by ObamaCare’s repeal. The intersection between a plan that accomplishes something and a plan that the GOP will accept is a null set.
Ryan knows that, Mitch McConnell knows that, Cantor knew that and John Boehner knew that.