John Boehner has a tough job over the next few weeks — and two years — walking a tightrope between getting acute problems solved while maintaining his credibility with the activist Republican base. He has the fiscal cliff to resolve without caving on tax increases, investigations to pursue, and more budget negotiations that will at some point require serious entitlement reform. With all of that on his plate, Boehner doesn’t have much time for fantasy, especially the fantasy that ObamaCare can be repealed. Boehner told ABC News that the ACA is now “the law of the land,” but that he wants to address parts of it within the context of budget negotiations:
Asked whether he will make another attempt to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, Boehner said “the election changes that” and “Obamacare is the law of the land.”
Still, there are some parts of the law, he said, that should be on the table as lawmakers work toward a balanced budget.
My friend at Poor Richard’s News is outraged:
Did Democrats roll over and compromise their principles when George W. Bush won re-election? No, they did not. They dug in, they hardened their opposition, and they cleaned our clocks in the last two Presidential elections. Now is not the time to go all mushy. Now is is the time to fight harder than ever.
Now, I understand that Bohner’s position may be a tactical one. Practically speaking, with a re-elected Obama and a Democrat majority still in the Senate, a bill to repeal would get no where. However, that doesn’t mean that every House and Senate Republican’s goal shouldn’t be to pull this weed up from its roots. Bohner must clarify his position. This election was not a mandate to keep Obamacare, and if he expects to be the leader of the House Republicans, he needs to be the leading voice of opposition to it. It doesn’t matter how it happens, a single bill or a chipping away at it gradually. Obamacare must go.
This isn’t a tactical decision. It’s reality. The ACA is not a static law; most of its provisions will go into effect in the next two years, and after that repeal will be immensely difficult, thanks to its transformational nature in relation to the insurance and health-provider industries. It’s going to be too late to “pull this weed up by its roots” by 2017, the next possible spot on the calendar to do so. By then, we will have to offer a second round of transformation that starts in the context of ObamaCare., and hope we have a Republican President and Republican majorities to even get that process under way.
We had only two ways to stop ObamaCare. Either we needed a new President with Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress, or veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers of Congress. Voters didn’t provide John Boehner with either option. When we say that elections have consequences, this is exactly what we mean.
Back to the tightrope. Boehner did draw a line in the sand on tax rates, while leaving open the possibility of increasing revenues through tax reform — which has been the Republican position for almost two years:
“Raising tax rates is unacceptable,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said in his first broadcast interview since the election Tuesday.
“Frankly, it couldn’t even pass the House. I’m not sure it could pass the Senate.”
That stance could set up a real showdown with the White House given that the president has said he would veto any deal that does not allow tax cuts for the rich to expire. But the speaker said that Republicans would put new tax revenue on the table as leaders work toward a deal.
If I had to guess, both Boehner and Obama will want to go back to the deal that Obama rejected in August 2011, which would still work, and would have fewer political consequences in the wake of the election. That could get done quickly and would go a long way to bolstering investor confidence that the next four years will be a little more responsible in Washington than the last eighteen months.