Among Congressional Republicans, the decision was made early not only to oppose the White House’s health care push, but to offer almost nothing in the way of policy alternatives.
There was no meaningful Republican plan for reform during the heat of the original debate, and for all the notional talk about repealing and replacing, much the same void exists today.
Individual conservative politicians and policy wonks have plans, but the party leadership has deemed it too risky to counter the Democratic legislation with anything save boilerplate.
Paul Ryan has personally proposed a health care alternative, but his House budgets have conspicuously lacked one.
This “just say no” approach made a certain amount of political sense, for many of the same reasons the White House’s “all in” approach turned out to be so politically risky.
But it left the Republicans with no leverage on policy: they had nothing to offer wavering Congressional Democrats (from Ben Nelson to Bart Stupak) who had problems with the legislation but wanted to vote for some kind of reform, and they had nothing substantial to put forward when Scott Brown’s victory seemed as if it might force the White House back to the negotiating table.
As a result, now that the bill has been passed and the Supreme Court has declined to do their work for them, the Republicans are left to thread a very narrow needle.
First they need to take the Senate as well as the White House, and then they need to find a way to pass a party-line repeal bill while lacking any clear consensus on a replacement.
Otherwise they will have combined a political victory with a once-in-a-generation policy defeat.
Neither the victory nor the defeat is inevitable: there’s still time for Mitt Romney to lead his party to some kind of consensus on a health care alternative...
Fox News’s Chris Wallace asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) this important question on Fox News Sunday today and the senior senator from Kentucky had no answer.
After McConnell meandered through the typical GOP talking points that they plan to allow the sale of health insurance across state lines and that they will institute medical malpractice reform, he finally settled on an answer:
Insuring Americans “is not the issue”:
WALLACE: One of the keys to ObamaCare is that it will extend insurance access to 30 million people who are now uninsured. In your replacement, how would you provide universal coverage?
MCCONNELL: Well first let me say the first single thing we can do for the American system is get rid of ObamaCare. … The single biggest direction we can take in terms of improving health care is to get rid of this monstrosity.
WALLACE: But you’re talking about repealing and replace, how would you provide universal coverage?
MCCONNELL: I’ll get to it in a minute.
WALLACE: I just want to ask, what specifically are you going to do to provide universal coverage to the 30 million people who are uninsured?
MCCONNELL: That is not the issue.