. . . and two of them aren’t happening.
For my sins, I just finished listening to probably my 800th talk-radio debate about repealing the so-called Affordable Care Act. The exchange has taken on the comforting familiarity of ritual: The host and a conservative guest shouted that this is a matter of betrayal and cowardice, and the beleaguered party guy quietly insisted that it’s a matter of arithmetic, that Republicans don’t have the votes to get it done.
An expression that has gained some odd currency on the Right of late is: “Make him veto that bill!” (Yes, the exclamation point is mandatory.) The idea here being that forcing Barack Obama to veto a bill that he is inclined to veto constitutes some sort of moral victory. “Hurray for us! We forced the president to . . . defeat us. Again.”
This is not a president who is particularly veto-happy: He has vetoed only four bills so far in his presidency; Franklin Roosevelt vetoed nearly 400. But he would veto a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act, or a quasi-repeal such as a de-funding bill. If you are interested less in moral victories than in real victories—the kind of victory where you win instead of losing—you have to ask: Then what?
One, you could persuade some Democrats to join you in overriding the veto. Or you could try; it doesn’t seem very likely that any one of the Obamacare stalwarts is about to break ranks, much less that there will be a party of defectors sufficient to override the veto. Perhaps there is some red-to-purple-state Democrat out there who is a national figure, who wants to be president, who is concerned about the party’s turn to the left, and who is willing to take on President Obama. No, I can’t think of who that would be, either.
Two, you could keep electing more Republicans to both houses of Congress until you have enough votes to override a veto. That also seems unlikely to happen—the political realities of the moment do not suggest that Republicans will go into 2017 with radically larger majorities than the ones they have now; indeed, there is some pessimistic speculation about whether the GOP will even hold onto its Senate majority. A great big veto-proof Republican majority in Congress would be desirable for all sorts of reasons, but it isn’t likely to emerge from the 2016 elections.
Third, you could elect literally any of the Republican presidential candidates in November. Rand Paul: “repeal.” Jeb Bush: “repeal.” Marco Rubio: “repeal.” Carly Fiorina: “repeal.” Ted Cruz: “repeal.” Lindsey Graham (seriously, he’s running for president): “repeal.” Bobby Jindal: “repeal.” Etc.
Or: You could screw things up well and truly and go into 2017 with a Democratic president, a Democratic Senate, and a diminished Republican majority in the House. That would present Republicans with the opportunity for lots and lots of moral victories, but not the other kind.