Is it time for the GOP to graduate from bashing Obamacare to embracing a solution of its own?
Republicans on Capitol Hill are increasingly eying the possibility, even as conservative voices push against the idea of a single, comprehensive bill.
“When do we add to our arsenal, not just attacking Obamacare, which deserves to be attacked and exposed for its own weaknesses, but when do we add to that discussion a way to resolve the health-care issues that we face in the nation?” asks Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina.
In the spring, GOP whip Kevin McCarthy established a working group called the House Obamacare Accountability Project, which sources say has quietly discussed the possibility of adapting health-care principles for the party to embrace.
The group’s work complements the efforts of individual members such as Representative Tom Price of Georgia, who has championed his own health-care bill, and Republican Study Committee chairman Steve Scalise, who worked with Representative Phil Roe to craft an RSC bill the group unveiled in September.
On December 3, at the height of the HealthCare.gov failures, President Obama challenged opponents: “I will work with anybody to implement this law effectively. Now, you got good ideas? Bring ’em to me. Let’s go.”
Days later, the RSC sent its bill to the president. The group now has a clock on its website documenting the time that has elapsed without response from the president.
Mulvaney says the hardest question he gets back home when Obamacare comes up is, “well, what do the Republicans want to do about health care?” The trouble isn’t that the GOP doesn’t have ideas, he says. “We’ve got them! We all know about the bills and so forth. But we haven’t, sort of rallied behind them yet and driven that message as a party. So when do we start to do that?” he asks. But that’s easier said than done: Republicans have had difficulty agreeing on health care in the past. In April, majority leader Eric Cantor had to pull a bill to support federally funded high-risk pools, one element of some GOP plans, for lack of GOP support. The resulting headlines were brutal: Ross Douthat took the kerfuffle to lament “the Republican health policy trainwreck.” Some opponents of Cantor’s proposal were simply worried that funding the program, established by Obamacare, would muddle GOP attacks on the law, but many others were primarily concerned with funding a federal health program at all.
Health-care-reform legislation at the federal level is something of a minefield for Republican officials, who run into criticisms from the right that the “conservative” solutions are creating new federal programs, increasing spending, or taking power from state governments.