The GOP’s Two Approaches to Fighting Obamacare

Speaker.govSpeaker.govRight now, Republicans in Congress are united in their distaste for Obamacare. There’s no Republican who doesn’t want to fight it, somehow. But when it comes to opposing the law, there are two very different strategies at work.

The first approach is focused on maintaining adamant, outspoken opposition to the law, and pushing for full repeal, as soon as possible, and little else. This is the approach that you’ve likely heard the most about. It’s fiery and ferocious, powered by the deep and ongoing conservative activist opposition to Obamacare. It’s emphasis is on pushing back against the law, the whole law, as often and as boldly as possible.

The camp that favors this approach generally tends to be skeptical of GOP-led efforts to tweak the law, especially if those tweaks might have the effect of making the law function a little more smoothly, or make it a little easier for the White House to downplay its problems. They don’t necessarily demand that all anti-Obamacare votes be full-repeal votes, but they certainly don’t mind voting for full repeal on a regular basis. Mostly, they want to see actions clearly and unambiguously intended to defund and dismantle the law, all at once if possible, chunk by chunk if necessary, rather than rework it.

The second approach, favored by at least some in House leadership, is a little more subtle. It’s not opposed to repealing the law, but it believes there are limits to the battering ram approach. It understands that full repeal votes, while not strictly useless, are primarily symbolic—messaging tools more than meaningful legislative vehicles. Most of all, it understands, and takes as its starting point, the notion that with a Democrat in the White House, and Democrats controlling the Senate, the chances of a full-repeal bill becoming law are nonexistent. Democrats simply wouldn’t cooperate.  

That’s why this approach is focused on highlighting Obamacare’s legislative flaws and its negative impacts on families and businesses, on pushing and prodding at its various weak points in order to show the many ways that it won’t work as promised as planned. This strategy focuses most on fraud and dysfunction, on practical pocketbook issues and bureaucratic complications for workers and employers.  For this group, full repeal is a distant goal. But delay is in sight. The goal, for now, is to convince enough voters, and, in turn, enough congressional Democrats, that it’s in their interests to put off the start of the law by a year.

No one thinks that will be easy. And everyone knows there’s not a lot of time. Much of the public discussion about the start of Obamacare is focused on October 1, when the exchanges open and start enrolling individuals in subsidized insurance plans. But some congressional Republicans are focused on another date—January 1, when the coverage and the accompanying subsidies both go into effect. At that point, efforts to delay or cancel the law will become significantly more difficult.

Convincing Democrats to go along with a delay before then will be hard. But it might not be impossible. For one thing, it’s not necessary to reach every Democrat in Congress. It may not even be necessary to convince a majority of them. And the way to reach Democrats in Congress (and, to a lesser extent, the White House) is through the public—and in particular through moderate Democrats.

Polls have always shown that the broader public is wary of the law. But what we’ve seen recently is that support has fallen dramatically amongst the president’s own party. In February, the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll reported that support for the law amongst Democrats had fallen from 72 percent in November 2012 to 57 percent just three months later. Today, The Washington Post reported on a new poll showing that support has fallen to just 46 percent amongst ideologically moderate Democrats, down by 11 points in the last year. Those sorts of numbers, along with the law’s ongoing unpopularity, help explain why a splinter group of House Democrats voted with Republicans to delay the law’s employer and individual mandates—defying the White House in the process.

Ultimately the challenge will be to ensure that the two strategies work together. But so far, I’d argue, they largely have. The repeal votes have helped keep pressure on the law, fueling the opposition for the years. Votes like the mandate-delay bills we saw last week, meanwhile, are revealing cracks in support for Obamacare, or at least parts of it, amongst congressional Democrats. Meanwhile, support amongst self-identified Democrats in the electorate is falling. None of this is good news for the law. And while it doesn’t make repeal or delay particularly likely in any realistic assessment, it does suggest that, at least to some extent, both strategies are making an impact.  

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Repeal or defund. That is all.

  • Paul.||

    There's always Option 6.

  • Metazoan||

    What if you passed a law that was an "alternative" that consisted essentially of repealing o'care and replacing it with a free market? I understand that's basically a repeal, but it would go farther by undoing at least some of the shit that was around before o'care.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    replacing it with a free market?

    Wouldn't that consist of just repealing a shitload of stuff?

  • Metazoan||

    Ssshh...

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

  • John||

    I am skeptical they will be that smart. But making the Senate Dems and Obama go on record that they are willing to shut down the government to fund Obamacare would be very smart.

    Hell, you wouldn't even have to win that kind of showdown. All they have to do is shut down the government for a week or so, then say that they feel that keeping the government running is too important to allow Obama's fanatical dedication to his failed law to stop. Give Obama and the Dems what they want making it clear to the public who owns the consequences of them getting it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    This is one place where I think the GOP could play brinksmanship and win big. Just about everyone fears this law.

  • Metazoan||

    They might as well try. GOP voters need to realize that if the GOP isn't willing to try to get rid of this abomination, they are entirely useless.

  • John||

    I think they could too. They couldn't lose. If Obama caves, they get to say they saved the country from Obamacare. If they cave, the whole country knows that the law is only going into effect because Obama and the Dems were willing to shut down the government to get it meaning they will know who to blame for the effects.

  • Paul.||

    ust about everyone fears this law.

    No, not everyone. I saw a VW Bug the other day that had an I ♥ Obamacare! bumper sticker on it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Even among those who emote rather than think, the constant stream of bad news, even from liberal media outlets, is going to disturb their little worldview somewhat.

  • John||

    Yes. Other than sock puppets like Tony and shreek, even liberals are not defending the law anymore. And even Shreek doesn't bother showing up and defending it. Only Tony is a big enough deadender to try that.

  • Sevo||

    "No, not everyone."

    Reporting from SF; I've seen one (count 'em ONE) of those.
    I see more 'I heart Karl Marx" than that.

  • PRX||

    I heart Friedrich Engels. He kept his millions til the day he died.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Damn you, John Roberts.

  • Metazoan||

    but the cocktail parties

  • ||

    Hey, let's not forget Bart Stupak.

  • Metazoan||

    A model for chumps everywhere.

  • John||

    I bet he did pretty well for himself. What do you want to bet he is making high six figures doing nothing as a thank you for sacrificing for the cause?

  • Metazoan||

    Well, you're right. Should've expected that.

  • John||

    Be interesting to see what kind of a job oh Bert has today. That would be a great where are they know segment to do. What has he been up to since leaving Congress. What kind of a job does he have? How much does it pay? Who gave it to him? The answers might be surprising or not.

  • NoVAHockey||

  • John||

    As I said, six figure do nothing job.

  • NoVAHockey||

    they pay these guys a shit-ton and then can't figure out why the numbers are out of whack.

  • John||

    Partners a big K street firms are almost universally huge Dems. I am sure they have no problem paying him off.

  • John Thacker||

    Eh, a bunch of them are former Republican congressmen too.

  • NoVAHockey||

    sure, but the partners are mostly lawyers, who are mostly dems. it's probably 3-1 at my firm.

  • NoVAHockey||

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I never had faith in Stupak, though. It was obviously a ploy for leverage. But Roberts? I plan to ask the justices to be pall bearers at my funeral, you know.

  • Metazoan||

    I plan to ask the justices to be pall bearers at my funeral, you know.

    Wait why would you do that? Did I miss something?

    *runs*

  • John Thacker||

    They've had 3 votes on full repeal, one per year. They've also had 27 other votes on changing, delaying, or repealing sections, 7 of which have resulted in laws. (Also one that was an attempt to codify something that the WH was already doing.) Mostly the things that become laws are attempts to repeal taxes, pay-fors, and so forth (1099 reporting requirement, for example.)

    Over the long run, unlikely that the cost savings will materialized. But once the subsidies ramp up, will be hard to impossible to repeal.

  • John||

    The subsidies will never cover the increases in costs. It will get easier to repeal as time goes. Things will only get worse. No one will view the subsidies as any kind of free pony.

  • John||

    The thing to remember about this is most people, and especially middle class people who vote, won't be getting subsidies. They will just be taking up the ass watching their premiums go up. This thing is not medicare. It is not a middle class entitlement. So it will never become popular anymore than welfare is popular. Bennies for the middle class are popular. Bennies for the poor are never popular.

  • John Thacker||

    Nope, it is a middle class entitlement, just lower middle class.

    It's not a benefit for the poor; the poor have Medicaid, and the poor don't really care about "losing everything in a medical bankruptcy" because they don't have any savings.

  • John||

    Nope, it is a middle class entitlement, just lower middle class.

    No it is not. The lower middle class is being forced to buy over priced insurance it doesn't want. A small subsidy won't make that popular. And since when does the lower middle class vote?

  • John Thacker||

    Lower middle class young people are totally screwed.

    50 to 64 year olds do very, very well by the legislation, thanks to the limit on charging the old more than 3 times that of people in their 20s.

  • John Thacker||

    And 50 to 64 year olds do vote, and the young don't.

  • John||

    And only the ones who have pre-existing conditions and no insurance will benefit. The ones who don't fit that description are going to get fucked. This bill just doesn't benefit enough people. It will never be popular.

  • John Thacker||

    Depends on how it's implemented. With the right sort of tweaks, a clever Dem Administration can move more people onto the subsidies. Suspending the employer mandate actually could help with that, by making it so more middle and lower middle class jobs don't come with insurance.

    From the other side, if the mandate isn't strengthened, then you run into the death spiral that is the NY individual insurance market.

  • John Thacker||

    You're certainly right that people with pre-existing medical conditions are both fairly rare and pretty expensive.

    But it's not like that has gotten the free dialysis program repealed, either.

  • John||

    But it's not like that has gotten the free dialysis program repealed, either.

    No one feels the cost of that. They will all be feeling the cost of this.

  • John Thacker||

    It's especially an entitlement for 50-64 year olds who have savings, existing medical conditions, but have been between jobs or are working lower middle class jobs.

  • John||

    It's especially an entitlement for 50-64 year olds who have savings, existing medical conditions,

    And they are going to out vote the millions of people who are getting screwed here? Every person over 65 is on medicare and Social Security and thinks they paid in everything they get.

    Yeah, a subsidy for 50 to 64 year old people with pre-existing conditions and no insurance is going to be just as popular. Come on John.

  • Tony||

    I guess they've ditched the whole "replace" bit. What's their alternative? The old status quo? Why is that better?

    All you guys crying over how scary Obamacare is realize that this entire episode is 100% pure politics and absolutely nothing else, right?

  • John||

    What politics is Bachus playing when he called it a national train wreck? And what politics is the Light Worker messiah playing by delaying it until after the 2014 elections? Does Obama just hate America? Why does he want to deprive them of all of the benefits of his wonderful law for another year?

    Face it Tony, you already lost the House and probably won't see it again for a decade or more because of this law. You are probably going to lose the Senate next year and face the prospect of the Obama Administration actually being investigated thanks to this law.

    If someone were a real Republican hack and didn't care about the tremendous harm and misery this law is causing, they would probably send Obama a thank you note for signing it.

  • Tony||

    I don't know what a Light Worker messiah is, but if you care to speak like a grownup, that would be great.

    The delay in the employer mandate is at the behest of businesses. At worst you can say that part of the law is just not ready for implementation. Republicans aren't cheering the fact that businesses are being spared penalties, though, they're turning it into absurd political theater, of course.

    Face it Tony, you already lost the House and probably won't see it again for a decade or more because of this law.

    Thanks for making my point, I guess?

    Few people know what this law actually does, though they tend to like its specific components when explained to them.

    I wonder if you know what it does. Would you care to point to which elements specifically are going to cause "tremendous harm and misery"? And why that is worse than the harm and misery of the prior status quo?

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 7.23.13 @ 4:50PM |#
    ..."The delay in the employer mandate is at the behest of businesses"...

    You are a lying steaming pile of shit.

  • #||

    It's amazing to the extent that liberals don't realize the flavor of fascism that is in most of their policy perscriptions.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Tony,

    I guess they've ditched the whole "replace" bit. What's their alternative? The old status quo? Why is that better?


    Not yet one, yes and because there was still some semblance of choice with the status quo.

    All you guys crying over how scary Obamacare is realize that this entire episode is 100% pure politics and absolutely nothing else, right?


    Were the laws of economics suspended all of a sudden? Or what did you mean with "nothing else"?

  • Tony||

    there was still some semblance of choice with the status quo.

    You mean the choice to freeload when you get sick without insurance? Is that a libertarian-friendly choice people should have?

    what did you mean with "nothing else"?

    I mean Republicans don't give the slightest molecule of a shit about good healthcare policy. They care about making this law into a paddle and beating Democrats across the face with it.

  • Sevo||

    "I mean Republicans don't give the slightest molecule of a shit about good healthcare policy."

    You are a lying steaming pile of shit.

  • R C Dean||

    I mean Republicans don't give the slightest molecule of a shit about good healthcare policy.

    Yet another way in which they differ not at all from Dems.

    I mean, we know what the very best healthcare policy the Dems could come up with was: ObamaCare. Anyone care to say that, as passed and implemented (entirely by Dems), its good policy?

  • Tony||

    So they do have a healthcare program in mind? I'm all ears.

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 7.23.13 @ 5:25PM |#
    "So they do have a healthcare program in mind? I'm all ears."

    Yes, shithead, repeal Obozocare.

  • Tony||

    Are you a liberal plant tasked with making my arguments look better? Or are you really as dumb as you seem?

  • ||

    Why do you keep talking to yourself Tony? You know it makes you look crazyer.

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 7.23.13 @ 5:51PM |#
    "Are you a liberal plant tasked with making my arguments look better? Or are you really as dumb as you seem?"

    I'm pretty sure no one who breathes without reminders can be as dumb as you seem.
    To what was your question addressed?

  • Paul.||

    So they do have a healthcare program in mind? I'm all ears.

    I've got one...

  • Jordan||

    Why is that better?

    Why don't we start with the fact that I wasn't required to purchase insurance?

  • Tony||

    I'd prefer a single-payer model, but as this is somewhat of a civilized society, your not being insured means there's a probability that I will have to pay for your healthcare costs, which will be more expensive than they had to be. You can't really do civilized healthcare without universality. And no libertarian has managed to argue otherwise, except to say that we should let the uninsured die where they fall.

  • #||

    Since when are liberals against making other people pay for their costs?

    Besides, the mandate was about forcing young people to overpay so that they could subsidize others, not stopping current free riders. The bill throws most of them onto medicaid and lets them free ride that way.

  • #||

    Isn't it also cute how they came up with the term "single payer" to avoid using the terms socalized or nationalized? The soviets just made everything "single payer" I guess.

  • Tony||

    I think any system that would be plausible for the US would keep doctors and hospitals private, so it wouldn't be nationalization.

  • #||

    You'd just nationalize the insurance and do so in a manner that socializes costs.

  • Tony||

    Yep, because it tends to be cheaper that way. Freedom is not paying more than necessary for healthcare or else going without. Freedom is more than not paying taxes.

  • #||

    "because it tends to be cheaper that way"

    [citation needed]

    "Freedom is not paying more than necessary for healthcare or else going without."

    freedom is when one is free to enslave their neighbor

  • Tony||

    Stupid conversation-stopping hypocritical bullshit. Taxes paying for programs you don't like isn't slavery, it's you not getting everything you want in a society full of people who disagree with you. Cry, child.

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 7.23.13 @ 5:46PM |#
    "Yep, because it tends to be cheaper that way."
    Yes, "it" is cheaper that way and worth it.

    "Freedom is not paying more than necessary for healthcare or else going without. Freedom is more than not paying taxes."
    Shithead, that's lame even for you. You use the term "freedom" and it's obvious you haven't a clue as to what it means.

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 7.23.13 @ 4:54PM |#
    "I'd prefer a single-payer model,"

    Yes, but you're an ignoramus.

  • Jordan||

    your not being insured means there's a probability that I will have to pay for your healthcare costs

    Tough shit. You made that offer, not me.

    And no libertarian has managed to argue otherwise, except to say that we should let the uninsured die where they fall.

    Full of shit, as usual.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Why is monopsony in healthcare such a fascination for you? From whence does government obtain such magical powers of competence and ethics that you would put such faith in it?

  • Paul.||

    I guess they've ditched the whole "replace" bit. What's their alternative? The old status quo? Why is that better?

    Option 6? Has anyone considered Option 6?

  • Ranter||

    Oh man, Doonesbury did a strip on this and BURN on YOU Rethuglicans...!!11!!

    He'll roll over to poke fun at some govt reps for trying to repeal a trainwreck that threatens a huge portion of the economy, but it's glaringly noticeable how many other Obama scandals he's deemed unworthy of attention:

    - Benghazi
    - Domestic NSA spying
    - Aid to Syrian rebels
    - persecution of Edward Snowden
    - Persecution and torture of PFC Manning
    - Defense of DOMA

    Once a shill, always a shill. Now back to the waggish, irreverent antics of that Zonker fellow!

  • Sevo||

    You left out the IRS; yes. Trudeau is nothing but a lefty shill.

  • ||

    There's a Third Way: Subversion

    Add a few "tweaks" - add a lower fourth tier that qualifies to avoid the "tax penalty" - including high-deducitble and catestrophic plans at all ages. Increase the premium price spread. Repeal the employer mandate. Add more things that insurers can vary rates for (obesity, alcoholism). Winnows down the list of things that count as "free" preventive care.

    Eventually you end up with a set of rules that don't affect anything because the natural market is already within those thresholds.

  • ||

    When I tell my friends that I oppose universal health care and Obamacare, I am always chided for wanting to maintain the status quo. Even though oddly, Obamacare is maintaining the status quo and is corporatism on steroids.

  • MappRapp||

    The GOP fights for whoever pays them the most. US POlitics, best politics money can buy lol.

    www.Webz-Anon.tk

  • FreeRoamer||

    Call me crazy, but I think the GOP might find the most success in taking a different approach all together by working more directly with doctors and private hospitals in creating and promoting the alternative. I have a lot of faith in the path more and more doctors are taking by dropping insurance all together and offering affordable membership and by-appointment rates. Far too many people have become reliant on their insurance to pay for things insurance should not cover, and I think any group trying to oppose Obamacare is only going to succeed by showing people a free and open healthcare market works best for the greatest number of people though concrete examples and success stories (of both doctors and patients). My own doctor has taken this approach, and both he and his patients couldn't be happier.

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