The Corner

No Retreating on Health Care

There has been some talk, including in this space, about the Republican abandonment of Medicare reform. It’s a little puzzling to me. Earlier this spring, I spoke to a lot of Republicans on both sides of the debate over whether to raise the issue in the Republican budget proposal, and I both interviewed Paul Ryan and paid attention to what he said in other venues. I was skeptical about bringing this issue up at all until a Republican presidential nominee was selected. But in all my time listening and debating, I never heard any of the advocates of tackling Medicare now say that they wanted to move legislation enacting these reforms in this Congress. I never heard anyone say that Republicans should insist on enactment of Medicare reform as the price for raising the debt ceiling. I never heard Ryan—the foremost advocate of putting the Republicans on record for Medicare reform—demand any of these things.

As far as I can tell, the plan all along was to propose a budget that showed how Medicare reform would contribute to, well, a path to prosperity, defend that reform, and try to get more supporters of reform elected in 2012. I don’t see how sticking to the plan can be seen as a retreat. But I also haven’t seen any Republicans make this point in this week’s news stories.

Also this week, Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp answered a reporter’s question about Obamacare thus: “Is the repeal dead? I don’t think the Senate is going to do it, so I guess, yes.” I think he would have done better to say: “Most Americans still want repeal, most states are challenging it in court, and Republicans are committed to repealing it as soon as we can—and, if we can’t do it in this Congress, we will make its advocates defend its indefensible provisions.” I am pretty sure that it’s my suggested quote that actually captures his position.

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


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