The Corner

Can Obamacare Be Repealed ‘Plank by Plank’?

In the Wall Street Journal, Kimberly Strassel (whom I respect enormously) celebrates the repeal of Obamacare’s 1099 tax reporting requirement, and argues that this is the first step in the piecemeal dismemberment of Obamacare. This view is clearly shared by many Senate Republicans, who are falling over themselves to introduce targeted measures that would eliminate various individual provisions of Obamacare, with the goal of repealing the bill plank by plank.

This may seem like a good idea. But in today’s Washington Post, I argue that by pursuing piecemeal repeal Republicans are walking into a trap Obama set in his State of the Union address. There is no way to repeal Obamacare plank by plank — Democrats will never agree to repeal the provisions that make the legislation such a monstrosity. But they will go along with peripheral changes, like the 1099 repeal. In fact, they will steal the least objectionable Republican ideas, introduce them as their own, and take credit for “fixing” the flaws in the bill (as Sen. Debbie Stabenow did on 1099). By going along with such “fixes,” Republicans will only succeed in lifting pressure for full repeal. And they will help vulnerable Democrats get reelected in 2012 — by allowing them to claim on the campaign trail that they are working to “repeal” the worst parts of Obamacare while keeping the parts of the law that Americans support. Before they know it, Republicans will discover that they have been drawn into a strategy of “fix and save” instead of “repeal and replace.” And they will find that they helped Democrats save Obamacare by stopping Republicans from taking control of the Senate in 2012.

I put it to my friends on the Corner: who’s right?

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