One theme Republican and Democratic opponents of health care reform share is the argument that, if a bill passes, it will be an albatross around the necks of the Democrats. But as Colombo liked to say, there’s just one thing: what are the Republicans going to say about it? Turns out there’s no good answer to that question, from the Republican viewpoint.
The Tea Party crowd wants Republican candidates to promise to repeal the whole thing. And of course if it’s an unconstitutional law that will put future generations in tax slavery while stifling medical innovation and sending Granny to the death camps – which is what Republicans have been saying about it – it certainly ought to be repealed.
But as Democrats have been finding in trying to pass the bill, inertia-of-rest is is a powerful force in politics. Every change hurts someone – in part because every cost is someone’s revenue – and the people who get hurt tend to react a lot more strongly than people who might be helped. Once the bill is law, the rights it confers are part of the status quo. Susan Collins can get away with voting against cloture on a proposed law still vague in voters’ minds. But could she get away with voting to allow insurance companies to exclude people with pre-existing conditions? To re-expand the “doughnut hole” in Medicare drug coverage? To deprive small businesses of tax credits for providing health insurance to workers? I don’t think so.
After all, the Democrats didn’t include the unpopular parts of the bill – the individual mandate stands out – because they’re masochists; those provisions are in there because they’re necessary conditions for the popular parts of the bill. Once the bill passes, the Republicans face the same problem, in reverse. So they’re going to have to choose between not calling for repeal, and alienating their base or calling for repeal and guaranteeing that they can’t get any votes outside their base.
Of course it never stood to reason that Obama (and Axelrod, Plouffe, and Emmanuel) Reid, and Pelosi were pushing hard for something that was gong to be an electoral catastrophe for Democrats, while Republicans were fighting tooth and nail to keep that catastrophe from happening. But neither John Boehner nor Ralph Nader has ever allowed the fact that a claim is nonsensical to stand in the way of making it.