Why don’t Republicans have a “replace” bill yet on health reform to fulfill their “repeal and replace” promises?

Here’s a clue.

Today Igor Volsky discovered that Newt Gingrich, too, has a health care problem. It involves Don Berwick, the Medicaid and Medicare administrator who Republicans, in the wake of the passage of health reform, have now come to deride as the King of Rationing.

It turns out that before the Affordable Care Act passed, however, Newt repeatedly praised Berwick’s ideas for cost control.

What’s interesting about this isn’t so much what it says about Newt, but what it reminds us about Republicans and the Affordable Care Act. Why, fourteen months after ACA passed, is there still no Republican plan? To some extent, it’s because the core of the Obama plan was borrowed from very similar plans that previously won support from Republicans. But that’s not all! The very guiding theory behind the ACA, especially the cost controls, was a kitchen-sink approach which included ideas such as those Newt — and other Republicans — had embraced.

What this means is that lots of Republicans are already on record supporting a whole range of ideas that have now been incorporated into Democratic health care reform legislation. This is a problem for Republicans who are now claiming that every bit of the ACA is a socialist assault on Truth, Justice, and the American Way, and that the whole thing should be repealed because there are simply no good bits to it at all.

You see the problem: If the Democrats tossed every health care idea out there into the bill, and Republicans are dedicated to the idea that every bit of the law must be repealed, then there are simply no ideas remaining with which to build a “replace” bill around.

So as the 112th Congress continues, don’t expect a replace bill to emerge from the House. And as the 2012 campaign rolls along, Mitt Romney can take some comfort in knowing that any Republican candidate who ever spoke about health care before 2009 is probably liable to the same gotcha stuff that Newt’s being called on today.