Over the long holiday weekend, you may have missed an excellent story by David Fahrenthold about “repeal and replace.” If you’ve forgotten, that’s the Republican plan – or at least the GOP rhetoric – that once they’ve repealed ACA, they’ll replace it with their own health care plan. And it’s a serious broken promise from the House Republicans.
Fahrenthold does a good job of pointing out how little Republicans have done to carry out their “replace” promise. But he doesn’t quite nail down just how much of a betrayal it has been. That requires not only going back to the campaign rhetoric from 2010, when almost all Republican candidates adopted the “repeal and replace” slogan, but also what House leaders said early this year:
We will hold hearings in Washington and around the country. We will invite affected individuals and job creators to share their stories and solutions. We will look to the Constitution and common sense to guide legislation.
Replacing this law is a policy and a moral imperative…The committees we lead will tackle these challenges with the seriousness and steadfastness of purpose they deserve. We will pursue changes on which there is widespread agreement as we seek to meet the monumental challenges of a nation on an unsustainable fiscal trajectory. We will look to governors to explore how greater flexibility would empower them to hold down costs and pursue innovative strategies for delivering care. Above all, we will listen to the American people and fix what’s broken with health care, without breaking what’s working.
That’s the chairs of five House committees, in an op-ed they published right after the first House repeal vote. They’re pretty specific: “hearings in Washington and around the country” to develop the new legislation. It’s something that they had full control over (as opposed to actually passing legislation, which depended on the Senate and the president. And it’s something that just didn’t happen.
Sarah Kliff argues that “repeal and replace” isn’t actually very popular; of those (about half of all American) who want to get rid of ACA, a slim majority just want to junk it and be done with it. On the other hand, the promise to replace the current law with some unspecified fix that would theoretically solve all the problems that even conservatives agreed were important over the last decade is rhetorically useful. So maybe the status quo is the sweet spot for Republicans: say that they’ll get around to the replace part any day now, while never quite getting to it (which of course also works better with the reality, for now at least, that they don’t have the votes to repeal).
And so, a year later, the Speaker’s office is still telling reporters that they “expect we will see more ‘replace’ efforts in the coming year.” Sure. They’ll get right on that one. As soon as they clear up the college football bowl mess and perfect their perpetual motion machine.