The House GOP Moves on Repeal and Replace

Reps. Boehner and Cantor have signed two discharge petitions–one demanding a vote on Rep. Steve King’s legislation to repeal Obamacare (although it does not currently repeal the reconciliation “sidecar,” as it was introduced before the passage of that add-on), one demanding a vote on Rep. Wally Herger’s bill to repeal Obamacare and replace it with various Republican reforms.

NRO editorialized recently that the basic House Republican health-care strategy this year should have three facets. First, House Republicans should co-sponsor a simple, straightforward repeal bill. Second, Republican challengers should urge Democratic incumbents–especially those who voted against Obamacare–to co-sponsor the bill as well. Third, Republicans should continue to promote alternative health-care reforms such as tax credits, interstate purchase, and so forth. While the party’s message should include a “replace” component, its legislative tactics this year should focus on repeal.

Heritage Action for America and Erick Erickson of RedState have both complained that putting two discharge petitions out there muddies the waters. I agree. I think many Republicans are worried that a repeal-only bill would make Republicans vulnerable to the party-of-no charge, and leave Republicans with nothing to say in response to popular Democratic talking points about pre-existing conditions. I think these fears are based on misreadings of the political situation. There isn’t a Republican incumbent in the country who is going to lose re-election because his opposition to Obamacare is under-nuanced.

It would be helpful for conservatives to be able to point to a tally of co-sponsors for a straight repeal bill, say that we’re only 20 or so votes away, and use the fact that a House majority for repeal is within reach as part of their fall campaign. The House Republican leadership’s strategy seems to me to undercut that possibility. But what’s most important is point 2 above: Republican challengers need to pressure Democratic incumbents, especially the ones who voted against Obamacare, to support repeal. They can do that whether or not the House GOP leadership helps to drive a national message on the issue.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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