Opinion writer

Sen. Mitch McConnell (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Congressional Republican leaders are eager to prove to themselves and the nation they can govern. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went so far as to tell The Post today that his goal is to make the GOP less “scary.” That’s nice. Pity the party’s obsession with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is going to make that as elusive a goal as McConnell’s other stated ambition.

The Supreme Court is about to hear arguments in a case that seeks to void the federal health insurance subsidies of Obamacare, thereby gutting the law. As Greg Sargent points out, a ruling that allows this to happen would deprive millions of Americans of coverage. He adds that the “widespread disruptions and dire consequences” for them and the health-care industry in the 36 states relying on the federal exchanges “may figure heavily in the government’s strategy for winning the case.” But there is a distinct possibility that the Obama administration could lose this case — thus giving Republicans what they have failed to secure after four years and nearly 60 votes.

Yet, the Republican victory would be a Pyrrhic one as their cheers would quickly be drowned out by the millions who would lose, be denied or can no longer get health coverage. The GOP once flirted with repealing and replacing the ACA before settling on outright repeal. Far too many folks in the party seemed to believe that this absolved them of any responsibility for offering an alternative. The GOP would be in a vise of its own making.

Getting the ACA passed was messy. People hated it before there was even a bill to debate. It took more than a year to hash out, and Democrats lost their House majority because of it. Watching Republicans go through the same thing would be worse. Republicans wouldn’t be starting from scratch. There is The 2017 Project, which actually puts ideas on paper with the express purpose of “advanc[ing] a winning alternative” to Obamacare. But its proposal is just one. The debates over those and other ideas, not to mention the fights with the White House to get something to the president’s desk he would sign, would take months, if not years. All the while, people who once enjoyed the stability and security afforded by the ACA would slide back to the uncertain pre-Obamacare days.

For a less “scary” Republican Party, that entire scenario would be a nightmare.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj

As the GOP takes control of Congress, what legislative items are on the agenda? Here's a look at three policies Senate Republicans are likely to tackle in the new session. (Julie Percha/The Washington Post)