Conservatives who spent the last year opposing any health care reform have not learned their lesson. Rather than pushing for reasonable changes in the bill (such as correcting problems with how the Medicare Commission is being formed or pushing for more meaningful tort reform) many Republicans spent the day talking of repeal. This is not a very realistic goal. Even Mark Halperin, who frequently gives credibility to the ideas coming out of the “freak show,” gets this one right:
In their comments in the House debate on March 21, Republicans often sounded shrill and angry, sometimes hysterical. This is a real danger for a party that since the 2008 Obama-McCain contest has aimed to appeal to die-hard conservatives at the expense of a broader-based constituency. The illusory belief that a majority can be built from a finite core of animated and agitated souls is what kept Democrats out of the White House for most of the 1970s and ’80s, and Republicans are in danger of duplicating that error.
There is no question that the Democrats have handed the opposition party a compelling rationale to fire up its base for the upcoming election. But the bloodiest battle will be fought to define the new health care law for both swing and independent voters (even as disenchanted liberals are still being coaxed back to their stations).
Democrats will be joined in the fray by much of the press. For Republicans, this will seem like familiar ground, since generations of conservatives have complained that the so-called mainstream media have been biased against them. Well, get ready, Republicans, for déjà vu all over again. The coverage through November likely will highlight the most extreme attacks on the President and his law and spotlight stories of real Americans whose lives have been improved by access to health care (pushed, no doubt, by Democrats from every competitive congressional district and state). The louder Republicans yell, the more they will be characterized and caricatured as sore losers infuriated by the first major delivery of candidate Obama’s promise of “change.” The focus on the weekend’s alleged racial and gay-bashing verbal attacks by opponents of the Democrats’ plan should be a caution to Republican strategists trying to figure out how to manage the media this year.
But fighting back against a supposedly hostile press is old hat for the GOP. A far greater challenge will come from a new quarter. Large segments of the American business community are going to present a formidable ally for Obamacare, either with outspoken support or notable silence. From businesses that have been crushed by rising health care costs, to pharmaceutical companies cleverly co-opted by the White House early on in the process, to the doctors’ organizations (including the American Medical Association) that endorsed the final product, to, yes, even the vilified insurance companies — none of these entities are going to join the charge to reverse the new reality of U.S. health care, and many will make it clear that they are resigned to or actually in favor of the apparently inevitable conclusion.
No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?
We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.
Thomas Donahue, President of the US Chamber of Commerce, bitterly opposed the bill but has made it clear he does not intend to attempt to repeal it in an interview with The Wall Street Journal:
…Donohue made it clear the chamber won’t be spending any of its substantial war chest on a campaign, favored by Republicans, to repeal the legislation. The Washington-based chamber, which represents three million businesses of all sizes, spent heavily in an unsuccessful effort to kill the health bill. Minutes after Democrats won passage in the House Sunday night, the chamber issued a statement calling the vote “a wrong and unfortunate decision that ignores the will of the American people.”
But once the bill becomes law, Donohue said, “If people want to try and repeal, let them. We’re not going to spend any capital on that.” Instead, he said the chamber will push for changes to the bill when it enters the regulatory stage, always a key pressure point.