By now, everyone and their death panel-fearing grandmother knows that the House passed the Senateâ€™s version of health care reform two weeks ago. When President Barack Obama signed both chambersâ€™ reconciliation bills, Democrats finally got the signature victory they needed. While itâ€™s far from a great bill, itâ€™s nice to see theyâ€™ve finally grown a spine in the face of over a year of GOP obstructionism and fear-mongering.
But Republicans seem convinced that this is only temporary. Theyâ€™re now trying to fire up their base with â€œplansâ€ for repealing the bill.
Republicans are living in a fantasyland if they actually think that will happen anytime soon. Theyâ€™d have to reclaim a majority in the House (not happening assuming the economy improves and people start warming up to the health care bill), and win a super-majority of 60 Senate seats (not happening, period) to even pass a repeal, assuming Democrats stand behind the bill.
Yet, until at least January 2013, even thatâ€™s not enough. To override Obamaâ€™s likely veto, Republicans would need 67 Senate seats and 290 House seats (a two-thirds majority). Thus, the Republicansâ€™ pipe dream of repealing health care reform is contingent upon them gaining 27 Senate seats and 113 House seats. Wishful thinking, right?
Yet, thereâ€™s still a bigger question: Is repealing the whole bill really in Republicansâ€™ best political interest? Do they really want to yank college grads, who are struggling to find jobs in this economy, off their parentâ€™s insurance plans? Do they want to again allow insurance companies to deny people coverage based on a pre-existing condition, or drop them when they get sick? Do they want to cancel the insurance policies of the 32 million Americans who will now have it?
Axing many of the billâ€™s provisions would bring bad PR for Republicans, and repealing the whole thing would be political suicide. But a majority in both houses would probably be sufficient in eliminating the new taxes needed to help pay for it. That would be beyond dumb though, since all that would do is further balloon the federal deficit they claim to worry about.
Republicans can also emulate their Bush-era majority by blindly hacking away at funding. Using reconciliation (only a dirty word to the minority party, you see), they could slash insurance subsidies to individuals and small businesses to go with their obligatory Medicare/Medicaid cuts.
Upon first glance, it seems the only component of the bill that has any real chance of being repealed is the mandate that individuals must buy health insurance (a corporate-friendly Republican proposal that Democrats inexplicably included in the bill). The attorneys general of 14 states, including Coloradoâ€™s John Suthers, are suing the federal government, arguing that the bill, more specifically the mandate, is unconstitutional.
Problem is, countless constitutional law experts think theyâ€™re in for a disappointment once litigation inevitably reaches the Supreme Court. Despite the Courtâ€™s conservative tilt, they wouldnâ€™t dare reverse 200 years of precedent expanding the applicability of the Constitutionâ€™s supremacy clause (federal law trumps conflicting state law). Precedent also gives Congress broad power to regulate commerce with the goal of â€œpromoting the general welfare,â€ (i.e. states requiring that drivers buy auto insurance).
Republicans in Congress would face the wrath of insurance companies that will benefit from higher enrollment numbers stemming from said mandate if they tried offing it legislatively, so you know they wonâ€™t take a crack at repealing it once the lawsuits are resolved.
Quite simply, the mathematical and practical logistics behind the Republicans threat to repeal the bill reveal it to be an empty one, thrown out with the intent of attracting votes and campaign donations from their enraged, increasingly violent base, as well as the more gullible segment of the public. Those who believe otherwise are living in a dogmatic fantasyland.
Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. He normally appears in the Collegian on Mondays. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.