Congressional Republicans need to stop the infighting and repeal ObamaCare
© Greg Nash/Victoria Sarno Jordan
It is month four of unified Republican control of the government, and Republicans still haven’t repealed ObamaCare.
 
That which was unthinkable a few short months ago has become reality.

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House Republicans continue to bicker, taking their intra-party finger-pointing to the pages of The New York Times, and engaging in public, petty disputes, using reporters as proxies.

 

This is shameful behavior from a party that, for seven years, ran on repealing ObamaCare root and branch. That stated unequivocally their first action would be to repeal the law. That promised ObamaCare would be replaced with a market-friendly alternative. 

The consequences of failing to act are dire. The GOP is losing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform the way health care is accessed and delivered in America. They also seem to forget that a party that fails to keep one of the biggest promises in modern political history will lose all credibility with voters.

Practically speaking, time is indeed running out for the GOP to take proactive action on anything in their agenda.

Before they can use the fiscal year 2018 reconciliation bill for tax reform, they need to pass a budget for fiscal year 2018. If they do that, they’re precluded from using the reconciliation vehicle triggered by the fiscal year 2017 budget – the vehicle earmarked for ObamaCare, for its ability to get through the Senate with only 51 votes.

Moreover, Congress must deal with a government-funding deadline at the end of April – a process already fraught with controversy over the president’s supplemental defense funding request, including funds for a wall along the southern border.

And then there are the annual spending bills that must be passed in May or June, and the debt limit that will be reached in the fall.

It’s not clear if Republicans understand these stakes. They continue to “move ahead,” in the words of Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP leaders launch internal review into leak Opinion | Michael Steele: Gianforte better put his ‘big boy’ pants on Washington needs high-level science and technology expertise – now! MORE, but clearly with no sense of urgency. Congress, after all, just went home for two weeks. 

ObamaCare repeal, however, must not be set aside. Promise or no promise, every day that Republicans wait to repeal the law is one more day they are complicit in its harm to everyday Americans.

Insurers continue to pull out of ObamaCare. Humana announced its departure from the exchanges in February, and Wellmark and Aetna have both pulled out of Iowa – leaving the state with just one ObamaCare insurer. All three insurers blamed their exit on double-digit premium increases and millions of dollars in losses due to ObamaCare.

This will only exacerbate the number of US counties that have two or fewer insurance options to choose from. Families continue to labor under 140 percent premium increases, while Medicaid – responsible for most of the new coverage under ObamaCare – struggles to provide baseline adequate care.

The rest of America, meanwhile, is paying the price for ObamaCare's regulatory regime, which has increased premiums 68 percent on average – 92 percent for those 35 and under.

Rome is burning, and congressional Republicans, with their finger pointing, public disputes and flip-flopping, are playing Nero’s proverbial violin.

Instead of taking a two-week recess, Republicans should have stayed in Washington until they got this done. They are nearly out of time, and certainly out of excuses.

Republicans are struggling to get the votes not because of recalcitrant conservatives, but because moderates who no longer want to see its repeal (despite having voted to repeal the law no less than 50 times in the last seven years). Instead, Republican moderates would rather keep major elements of the law in place. This is reflected in the latest proposals from the House GOP – which maintains most of ObamaCare, with a few minor tweaks.

Partial repeal and repair is an unacceptable approach to the total policy failure that is ObamaCare. Repeal the law, and then, once Democrats are forced to negotiate, replace it with sensible, free-market proposals that facilitate affordable, accessible coverage.

As Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint pointed out, Republicans have lots of plans to repeal and replace the law. (At Heritage, we even have one.) Republicans aren’t absent solutions. They’re absent the will and political courage to see this through.

Let’s hope Republicans enjoy their two-week break. Because when they get back, they have some seriously heavy lifting to do — not only to restore their credibility and salvage the rest of their agenda, but to rescue the American health care system.

Rachel Bovard (@Rachel_Bovard) is the director of policy services for The Heritage Foundation (@Heritage), and a former policy director for the Senate Steering Committee.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.