Could Republicans Repeal Health Care Reform?

by Jonathan Chait | March 19, 2010

Mitt Romney lays out his plan to repeal Romneycare... I mean, Obamacare:

The key, he said, is having Republicans reclaim the White House and take majorities in the Senate and the House.
Then, "we can clamp down on this bill ... by not funding it," Romney said during a speech Thursday

I think Romney is just trying to cover his tracks and protect himself from the inevitable, true Republican primary attacks that he enacted a health care plan similar to Obama's, except more left-wing in the sense that it lacked the long-term cost controls. But he's still laying out the closest thing to a plausible Republican legislative plan to repeal health care reform should it be enacted into law. The problem with repealing health care reform is the filibuster -- Republicans would need 60 votes to undo the exchanges, regulations on things like preexisting conditions, and the individual mandate. But they could use budget reconciliation, which just needs a majority, to undo the tax credits and Medicaid expansion that make coverage affordable. (Even though using reconciliation to undo a major reform would be unprecedented!)

The question is, could they really pull that off? First, you're doing a lot of pretty unpopular things -- yanking coverage away from people, raising taxes on the middle class. You'll have news stories about people whose lives are about to be ruined by the GOP. Second, if you do pass that, then you've started to unravel the system. You'll have a Republican administration and Congress presiding over a policy meltdown that, among other things, will raise enormous ire among insurers, doctors, hospitals, and others who will take a huge hit because they'll be flooded with patients who they have to treat or but can't pay the cost. So you're just setting things up for the Democrats to reinstate the subsidies when they take back power, which would become more likely if the GOP has deliberately caused a health care disaster.

I think the most plausible strategy for the Republicans is to challenge the law in the Supreme Court. You only need a simple majority of 5 votes, the branch has no democratic accountability, and it's shown a willingness to ignore precedent exercise extreme judicial activism on behalf of high-stakes Republican priorities.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/could-republicans-repeal-health-care-reform