Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

December 25, 2013

Can GOP avoid Obamacare trap?

(Continued)

“It’s so bad that you just can’t let it happen,” says one well-connected GOP strategist. “My sense is, at least at this point, it’s gotten so bad that as much as you don’t want to fix Obamacare, you just can’t let the impact of this happen.”

Says a House Republican aide: “Measures that provide Americans some form of relief from the most painful parts of Obamacare don’t have to begin with repeal.”

Of course, many ways Republicans would want to provide Obamacare relief -- Michigan Rep. Fred Upton’s keep-your-health-plan proposal, for example -- won’t win Democratic support. But the more fixes the GOP signs on to, the more incentive Democrats have to keep stonewalling all calls for repeal.

Other House Republicans are (finally) uniting behind an actual repeal-and-replace proposal. H.R. 3121 is the work of the Republican Study Committee, and, like another effort by GOP Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, would both repeal Obamacare and enact a package of Republican health care reforms. It would address the tax unfairness of purchasing health coverage for those who are not covered at work; the problem of pre-existing conditions; the purchase of coverage across state lines and excessive medical malpractice settlements.

So far, 117 House Republicans have signed onto the bill. But 115, including the House GOP leadership, have not. And it is not clear whether passing an Obamacare alternative -- one that begins with repeal -- is really a priority for Speaker John Boehner and other top House Republicans.

For example, on NBC recently, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan expressed satisfaction with the recent budget deal because Republicans “don’t want to have shutdown drama so that we can focus on replacing Obamacare.” That sounds like Ryan wants to pass an alternative. But while Ryan encourages Republicans to come up with “conservative solutions,” there’s no evidence he wants to throw his weight behind any one bill.

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