The same day that President Obama signed health-care reform, Sen. Jim DeMint introduced legislation to repeal it. “This fight isn’t over yet,” vowed the South Carolina Republican. “The American people cherish their freedom and will defend it this November.” His bill, which has 14 other Senate co-sponsors, may seem quixotic; it obviously won’t pass anytime soon, and the GOP is divided on how exactly “repeal” would work. Yet the broader movement that DeMint has championed may play a significant role in the 2010 elections.
Back in mid-January, well before the House of Representatives approved Obamacare, the free-market Club for Growth (CFG) began asking federal lawmakers, candidates, and ordinary citizens to pledge their support for a repeal-and-replace strategy. As of Thursday afternoon, 67 incumbent House and Senate members had signed the CFG’s online “Repeal It” pledge, along with 287 official candidates. None of them are Democrats (no surprise there), but the Republican signatories include moderates and conservatives alike.
“We’ve gotten pledges from all over the country,” says CFG spokesman Mike Connolly. Among GOP Senate hopefuls, the pledgers include everyone from Illinois congressman Mark Kirk (who co-chairs the “Tuesday Group,” a collection of moderate House Republicans, and who voted for the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade energy bill), to California businesswoman Carly Fiorina (the erstwhile Hewlett-Packard CEO who advised the 2008 McCain campaign), to former Florida house speaker Marco Rubio (who has emerged as a darling of national conservatives).
The language for candidates reads as follows: “I hereby pledge to the people of my district/state upon my election to the U.S. House of Representatives/U.S. Senate, to sponsor and support legislation to repeal any federal health care takeover passed in 2010, and replace it with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the most prominent Republican Senate candidates who had not signed the CFG pledge were Tom Campbell of California, Mike Castle of Delaware, Dan Coats and John Hostettler of Indiana, Charlie Crist of Florida, Linda McMahon and Rob Simmons of Connecticut, and Rob Portman of Ohio. Yet nearly all of them have publicly endorsed some version of “repeal and replace.”