At the same Rotary Club event where he mocked conservatives for being too wimpy to pass immigration reform, House Speaker John Boehner had other revealing things to say. To wit:
[To] repeal Obamacare … isn’t the answer. The answer is repeal and replace. The challenge is that Obamacare is the law of the land. It is there and it has driven all types of changes in our health care delivery system. You can’t recreate an insurance market overnight. Secondly, you’ve got the big hospital organizations buying up doctor’s groups because hospitals get reimbursed two or three times doctor’s do for the same procedure just because it’s a hospital. Those kinds of changes can’t be redone. So the biggest challenge we are going to have is—I do think at some point we’ll get there—is the transition of Obamacare back to a system that empowers patients and doctors to make choices that are good for their own health as opposed to doing what the government is dictating they should do.
There's an element of "no sh*t" here. At a practical level, straightforwardly repealing Obamacare right now would be utterly chaotic. But it's a notable departure nonetheless.
Despite the namecheck, Boehner's not even really promoting the "repeal and replace." He's admitting that the best conservatives can hope for is a phased regression toward something more GOP-friendly. Or perhaps "replace and repeal."
But if you don't believe me, check out his deputy Eric Cantor, who asserted the following in a five-page memo to GOP House members this afternoon.
"Building an America that Works requires that we … [r]eform our healthcare system by replacing Obamacare with policies that improve patient choice, access to doctors and hospitals, and lower costs." The word repeal appears nowhere in the entire document. The GOP platform has speciated, from "repeal" to "repeal and replace" and now "replace." They just happen to, you know, not have an alternative or anything close to one.
I know the politics of Obamacare are supposed to run in one direction, straight at Democrats. But if you believe that, ask yourself if you think House Republicans would vote on this bill again this Congress. And if you believe the answer is no, why not?
Brian Beutler is a senior editor at The New Republic.