The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was enacted into law about six years ago. It was passed by Congress without meaningful Republican input, support or votes. You can thank former Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for the legislative maneuvering, which figuratively jammed Obamacare down the throats of their Republican colleagues.
Almost immediately, Republicans began a spirited campaign to repeal Obamacare. With the recent election of Donald Trump as president, congressional Republicans are salivating because their time has arrived to repeal or repeal and replace Obamacare. But President Trump, a practical man in many ways, has recognized there are some good features of Obamacare and stated so publicly. And Republicans are divided regarding how to repeal or repeal and replace Obamacare. (Trump vowed again in a news conference Wednesday that the repeal was coming.)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has indicated it may take months if not years to repeal and replace the law. Even Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has stated “[he’d] like to repeal it [the law] tomorrow but reality is another matter sometimes.” Oh really? What were they thinking when those two senior senators repeatedly criticized Obamacare? Were they thinking tactically about keeping their seats in the Senate and the perks that go with them or were they thinking strategically and preparing for the day when they would be able to do something about it? In my opinion, Republicans found it easier to criticize Obamacare rather than offer an alternative.
There are two other factors that will hinder the Republicans as they wax and wane over how to repeal and replace Obamacare. First, the proverbial clock is ticking and the next midterm elections will be held in November 2018. Therefore, Republicans do not have the luxury of having time on their side. Second, even Republicans who led the charge against Obamacare have to admit that some aspects of the law are quite attractive, such as curbing abuses of the insurance industry; having protection for people with pre-existing conditions, the very people who need health care the most; and extending coverage for young adults on their parents’ health care plans until age 26. Those are by way of example rather than an exhaustive list of the law’s key provisions.
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So how will those same Republicans face their electorates after indicating the passage of Obamacare was the greatest disaster in our lifetime? They will water down their rhetoric and begrudgingly admit some provisions of the law deserve keeping. My bet is they also will rely on the short memories of voters, although I am certain their opponents in the midterm elections of 2018 will have sound bytes ready to prove how hypocritical those Republicans really are.
But Republicans find themselves in a position of either incredible opportunity or an opportunity for disaster. The incredible opportunity requires them to bury their hatchets and engage in some leadership and craft or salvage a law that benefits a substantial number of Americans. The disaster will come from continued gamesmanship and finger-pointing for short-term political gain versus meaningful dialogue and action. Voters will then have their say in November 2018 and they should throw the bums out of office. Idaho Republicans in Congress, you know who you are and so do we, the voters.
Robert Blevins lives in Garden City. A retired Air Force colonel, he has served as a lawyer and member of the Florida Bar Association for 35 years.