Campaign 2010

Dec 12, 2013

MEMO: On Repeal, Republicans Can’t Run, They Can’t Hide – But They Are Scared

To: Interested Parties

Fr: Kelly Ward, Executive Director, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Dt: December 12, 2013

Re: On Repeal, Republicans Can’t Run, They Can’t Hide – But They Are Scared


After years of relentless obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act, a small group of Republicans have started to realize the political costs their agenda creates – and some have begun to try to squirm away from their repeal efforts. Their deathbed conversion away from repeal is the best indicator yet that voters are going to hold Republicans accountable as they begin to understand the #CostsofRepeal. Last week, Democrats launched a new offensive against Republicans over their plan to repeal health care, and now it’s crystal clear Republicans know they’re vulnerable because they’re trying to run away from their plan.  

But after nearly 50 votes to repeal the law – and with Republican leaders continuing to insist that the party’s official position is repeal – there’s no way for Republicans to run away from their incessant votes  to let insurance companies do whatever they want to raise rates, deny care and drop coverage.

Even worse for Republicans, their own Tea Party base is forcing anyone who departs from party orthodoxy on the Affordable Care Act back into line. Voters won’t forget that it was Democrats who were fighting for middle class families during the health care debate – especially as the official line of Republicans in Congress is absolute repeal. 

The Squirming Begins

Republicans are beginning to show major signs of strain and anxiety about their repeated repeal efforts. House Republicans’ leaders are beginning to realize that what the public wants is the law to be fixed and improved – not to be repealed – and are trying to back down from their damaging repeal-at-all-costs approach.

  • “Republican elected politicians are starting to say out loud what many have privately believed for a while: They really can’t 100% repeal the health-care law. […] Conservative health-policy wonk Avik Roy also argues that the long-term politics of repeal are perilous for the GOP. ‘Is the Republican nominee for president in 2016 really going to run on a platform of taking health coverage away from 24 million Americans? Especially after the Republicans ran in 2014 on ensuring that Americans can keep their health plans?’ But will a conservative base that’s salivated over repeal since March 2010 listen?” [NBC’s First Read, 12/10/13]
  • “Republicans have promised to ‘repeal and replace’ the Affordable Care Act, but the GOP House has staged votes only on repeal, in part to avoid the sort of scrutiny that inevitably comes with specific proposals. Some Republicans say that needs to change. […] Some Republicans are now worried that a GOP proposal to begin taxing health-care benefits offered through employers—which would affect some 160 million Americans—would cause market disruptions far more severe and expose the party to its own political peril.” [Wall Street Journal, 12/10/13]
  • “In a significant development, GOP candidates have embraced a concept that was unthinkable a year ago: fixing President Obama’s landmark law. Others, meanwhile, have offered replacement healthcare plans. […] Polling shows a majority of people would rather Congress fix the law than scrap it entirely, which is clearly playing a role in the Republican pivot. Yet, offering to fix a law that is reviled by the GOP base is politically tricky. Some in Republican circles want the law to flop miserably, which would increase the chances of an eventual repeal. [...] However, Republican leaders in Congress have not put forward a unified replacement plan to Obama-Care, a fact the president has pointed out throughout 2013. Megan Whittemore, a spokes wants woman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), reiterated on Wednesday that the party’s official policy on the law is repeal.” [The Hill, 12/5/13]
  • “Absent from their public outcry is any talk of repeal. It is a deliberate and significant shift in strategy for Republicans in the House after years of beating the drum of repeal. For the first time since they regained control of the House in 2011, Republicans have no plans at the moment to bring up a bill to repeal the law -- something they have done nearly 50 times. […] During a news conference on Tuesday, Republican leaders didn't utter the word ‘repeal’ once.”  [CNN, 12/6/13]

Case Study: Snapped Back in Line

In the meantime, Republicans who have shown that they are willing to stray from party orthodoxy are getting snapped back into line. The most recent example is Congressman Jack Kingston, who is running to be the Republican Georgia Senate nominee, who tried to back down from repeal, telling a local radio station:

“A lot of conservatives say, ‘Nah, just step back and let this thing fall to pieces on its own. Well, I don’t think that’s always the responsible thing to do,’ Kingston told Z Politics. ‘I think we need to be looking for things to improve health care overall for all of us. And if there is something in Obamacare, we need to know about it.’” [Washington Post, 12/5/13]

Kingston was immediately set upon by his opponent, Congressman Paul Broun, who issued an ad in which he said directly to camera:

“Jack Kingston wants to keep Obamacare….now he wants to fix it. I think that’s wrong… I don’t want to fix Obamacare. I want to get rid of it.” [Atlanta Journal Constitution, 12/5/13]

Kingston later “clarified” his remarks, doubling down on repeal:

“Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) on Wednesday sought to clarify earlier comments that it wasn't the ‘responsible" thing to let ObamaCare fail, saying he meant the GOP should take an active role in dismantling it. ‘By saying that's not a responsible thing to do, I meant to say, if it's teetering, you have to push it over the cliff,’ he told The Hill.” [The Hill, 12/4/13]

More Republican Retreat Attempts

Kingston isn’t the only example of Republicans trying to retreat from their repeal agenda. In the special election in Florida’s 13th Congressional district, the Republican candidates are already sparring over the Affordable Care Act, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Kathleen Peters:  “I do not think we should take a stand and say absolutely repeal it. Not unless we have a plan and a proposal to replace it.” [Tiger Bay Luncheon, 12/06/13]

David Jolly: “For those of you that were at Tiger Bay yesterday, I think it became clear that there are two candidates in this race who said they are against absolutely repealing Obamacare. Folks, I absolutely want to repeal Obamacare.” [Jolly Campaign Headquarters Opening, 12/07/13]

And facing a competitive race in Virginia, Congressman Scott Rigell has admitted that the ACA is helping people – despite repeatedly voting to repeal it.

“‘It’s not in dispute that many Americans’ lives are being disrupted in an important way by this law,’ said Representative Scott Rigell, Republican of Virginia. ‘Is it also true that some Americans’ lives have gotten better? Yes, and to not acknowledge that is to deny reality.’” [New York Times, 12/5/13]

Republicans Can’t Run, and They Sure Can’t Hide – But They Are Scared 

With the Affordable Care Act beginning to work, it’s clear that Republicans are terrified of voters’ reaction to their repeal-only agenda, and they know that Americans want to see the Affordable Care Act improved and fixed, not repealed – as recent polling has shown.

  • 58 percent of Americans want to fix the law, 38 percent of Americans want to repeal it. [National Journal, 11/19/13]
  • 54 percent of respondents were optimistic that the ACA’s problems can be fixed, while 45 percent believe the problems will persist indefinitely. [CNN, 11/26/13]

But after nearly 50 votes for repeal, and no signs from the Tea Party that they’re willing to let Republicans back down from a constant obsession with full repeal, the timeline of Republicans’ repeal and sabotage efforts is jaw dropping. Republicans have been trying to sabotage and repeal the Affordable Care Act since the day it became law.

House Republicans have voted nearly 50 times to repeal or sabotage the law, taking this country back to a broken insurance system, leading hardworking Americans into bankruptcy and giving insurance companies unchecked power to deny care and drop coverage – and they know that’s a losing argument in 2014.