Former Speaker of the House John Boehner, speaking at an Orlando health conference on Thursday, said there was little chance that Republicans would repeal and replace Obamacare.
“They’re going to fix Obamacare,” Boehner said. “I shouldn’t call it repeal-and-replace, because it’s not going to happen.”
Boehner said he was amused by President Trump’s talk of pushing through a new health care law so quickly.
“I started laughing,” he said. “Republicans never ever agree on health care.”
Boehner said that while he was optimistic that Republicans could improve upon the 2011 law, voters should reset their expectations.
“Most of the framework of the Affordable Care Act – that’s going to be there,” he predicted.
It’s tempting to note that this kind of political defeatism is what inspired hardline conservatives in the House of Representatives to send Boehner packing in 2015, but we can’t ignore the warning signs out of Washington. While Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are still promising a full-scale repeal/replace package, news from Capitol Hill makes it hard to believe that they’re going to live up to the expectations they set. As far as anyone can tell, the GOP has still not settled on a replacement law – may not, in fact, be any closer to a decision than they were three months ago.
But the failure to coalesce around a workable new health care law is almost secondary to a bigger problem: Republicans are rapidly losing control of the narrative. When President Obama was in the White House, the GOP did a remarkable job conveying the evils of Obamacare to the voters. They were useless when it came to actually doing anything about it, but their arguments were on point. Why wouldn’t they be? The flaws were plain to see; conservatives only had to shine a spotlight on them.
Now that they have an ally in the president and full control over both houses of Congress, however, Republicans are crouching in a defensive posture, unwilling to blast this godforsaken legislation with the full fury of the truth. There are exceptions – Jim Jordan, Ted Cruz, Ryan, and others – but the majority of Republicans seem almost embarrassed about moving forward with a repeal-and-replace plan.
According to a new Morning Consult poll, this defensive “strategy” is making Obamacare more popular than ever. 45% of voters now approve of the law – a 4% increase since January. Only the individual mandate remains unpopular with registered voters, and it’s impossible to preserve the “good” parts of Obamacare while scrapping the tax laws that pay for them.
There is no option for Republicans to come out and say, “Well, we’re just gonna let this one go after all – we can’t figure out what to do, so let’s just move on.” Insurance premiums are skyrocketing, state exchanges are failing, doctors are fleeing the healthcare industry, and taxpayers are having their returns confiscated. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Obamacare is dying, and Washington has two choices: “Save it” by expanding the government’s role or replace it with something that returns health care to the free marketplace.
We know which of those options Republicans promised us. Now we’ll see which one they actually choose.