On Tuesday, West Virginia Democratic primary voters ousted an incumbent who has been in the House since 1983 — partly because of his vote for Obamacare. That legislation is also at issue in a special election this month for a Pennsylvania House seat the Democrats have held since 1974. In that race, both candidates say they opposed the passage of Obamacare, but the Republican is running to the Democrat’s right by saying that he will vote to repeal it.
The message from these campaigns: Opposition to Obamacare is a winning cause. But House Republicans are not yet doing enough to capitalize on the discontent in order to elect Republicans to office and, more important, raise the likelihood of an eventual repeal. The House Republican leadership ought to get behind a simple, one-sentence bill to repeal Obamacare — now.
Promoting such a bill would accomplish three goals. First, it would demonstrate that the Republicans meant what they said about Obamacare. If they truly believe, as we do, that it is a threat to limited, constitutional government, to free markets, and to American health care, then they are duty bound to work toward its repeal; and it would be wise for them to let tea partiers and others skeptical about their steadfastness know that they accept that duty.
Second, a Republican campaign for this bill would force some House Democrats to co-sponsor it. Republicans would be able to divide House Democrats who voted no on Obamacare into two groups: the phony opponents, whom Speaker Nancy Pelosi allowed to vote no because she did not need their votes, and the true opponents. House Democrats who choose to co-sponsor the repeal legislation will advance the cause of repeal; the coalition against Obamacare will remain, as it has been, bipartisan. House Democrats who choose not to co-sponsor the repeal bill will make it easier for Republicans to take their seats.
Third, the campaign would help lift morale among opponents of Obamacare. If House Republicans, who unanimously opposed Obamacare, all co-sponsored a repeal bill — and put pressure on the Democrats who voted against the new law to join them — the repealers would quickly be within striking distance of a majority. That would both make it hard to dismiss repeal as quixotic and strengthen the case for electing Republicans in House races.
We understand that House Republicans are divided among several repeal bills, and that some House Republicans believe legislation should replace as well as repeal Obamacare. In our judgment, replacing Obamacare with workable conservative reforms should remain part of the conservative platform without being part of this year’s repeal legislation. All House Republicans have already gone on record supporting various health-care reforms, so the charge that they have no alternatives to Obamacare should not sting.
At this moment, the principal problem in American health care, and the principal obstacle to all conservative reforms to it, is the looming menace of Obamacare. House Republican leaders ought to build unity in their conference behind a repeal resolution, and then take the fight to the Democrats.