Clear mandates are hard to come by in politics but in the 2016 election we came as close to crystal clear as possible. President-elect Trump repeatedly promised to repeal ObamaCare and Republican candidates up and down the ticket echoed the promise. Moreover, this mandate was the culmination of six years of promises to repeal.
In 2010 Republicans launched a discharge petition to force then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi to allow a House vote on repealing the measure. That midterm election yielded a conservative wave of new lawmakers who ran promising to be a part of the repeal effort. The new majority then repeatedly voted to repeal only to be stymied by Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTo Build Back Better, we need a tax system where everyone pays their fair share Democrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda MORE and President Obama.
In 2013 Republicans again sought to delay the implementation of ObamaCare just before the first enrollment period began. Their fight for delayed implementation ended in a government shutdown when congressional Democrats and Obama refused to reopen the law. And in turn, it cemented the Republican Party’s position on repeal in the public mind. There was little doubt left what the Party would do if it had the power.
A year later, the 2014 midterm elections again yielded a Republican wave as newly elected senators promised to repeal ObamCare. That majority produced a 2015 reconciliation bill that repealed ObamaCare using the same budget procedure Democrats used to enact it. The president vetoed that bill as expected, but the exercise was intended to be a dry run for 2017 and to be a symbol to the voters that the promise would be kept. Now the end of the law was in sight as Republicans held both the House and Senate and needed the Presidency to finish the job.
Now, after another GOP victory handing the Party all the control they needed to repeal the law, we arrive at the moment of truth. Will the party follow through? Will they, as Vice President-elect Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence says he hopes conservative majority on Supreme Court will restrict abortion access Federal judge to hear case of Proud Boy alleged Jan. 6 rioter seeking release from jail The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit MORE has said, “be in the promise keeping business?”
There are no guaranteed victories in politics. In the Senate there are a handful of Republican Senators who want to delay the repeal of ObamaCare, perhaps three or more years. This delay has been termed a “transition period” to allow Congress and the insurance companies time to figure out how to replace the law and how to adjust to those replacements. In concept a transition period makes perfect sense, but as a matter of principle this is deeply problematic if it extends beyond two years.
The six years that have led us to this moment were full of promises to repeal. The mandate that was delivered was delivered to this Congress and this president. It was not delivered to a future Congress. If the House and Senate to punt the issue in to another Congress they will have to go back to their voters in the 2018 midterm elections and acknowledge that the law they promised to repeal is in fact still on the books.
Those members will have to explain that during their time in Congress, people re-enrolled in ObamaCare twice and continued to see premiums increase. That scenario invites unnecessary political blowback. Delaying a six year old campaign promise another campaign cycle is bad policy – constituents will continue to suffer under ObamaCare – but it is also more likely that those midterms go poorly.
Republicans need to reject any effort – real or perceived – to delay the repeal process. The House and Senate should pass the budget resolution in a way that ensures repeal will happen in this Congress. Making the 2015 reconciliation bill blueprint to advance the repeal of ObamaCare accomplishes that objective. That bill had a two-year transition period to avoid breaking a promise and it contained the necessary instructions to begin the process of repeal. That bill has the virtue of already passing both the House and the Senate.
Some, especially in the upper chamber, are implying the 2015 bill vetoed by soon-to-be former Obama is a bridge too far. That is nonsense. That bill should serve as the bare minimum for Congress, as it will help begin delivering on the promise of the last six years. If the result of the legislative process under unified Republican control is a broken promise to the American people, it will likely be one they do not soon forgive.
Tim Chapman is the chief operating officer of Heritage Action for America, an advocacy arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.