After President Barack Obama began reaching out directly to his Republican opponents in the wake of their failure to avoid the $85 billion budget sequester, many politicians and pundits speculated that the partisan fighting that has paralyzed Washington may finally be giving way to compromise. But even as congressional Republicans claim that they’re ready to make a deal with the president, they’re simultaneously reviving their favorite partisan play: trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Wisconsin representative and 2012 Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan confirmed that his latest budget — which promises to close the deficit in 10 years — will be built around repealing the health care reform law.
Even as Ryan chastised Obama for failing to “find common ground” with Republicans throughout his presidency, Ryan asserted that Obama’s top legislative victory had to go.
“Yes, our budget does promote repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a better system,” Ryan told host Chris Wallace.
Despite his plan to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, Ryan’s budget includes the law’s $716 billion in Medicare savings. As Sahil Kapur points out at Talking Points Memo, this represents a “720-degree flip” on the cuts, which Ryan initially opposed, then included in his 2011 and 2012 budget blueprints, then opposed again during the 2012 presidential campaign.
That Ryan’s budget relies on President Obama agreeing to scrap his signature achievement as president — or on the equally unrealistic prospect of Republicans winning a veto-proof two-thirds majority in the House and Senate before President Obama leaves the White House in 2017 — makes it a fundamentally unrealistic plan. Even Fox News’ Chris Wallace immediately shot Ryan down, noting “that’s not going to happen.”
Still, the Ryan has plenty of supporters on his side of the aisle. House Republicans have been circulating a letter urging House Speaker John Boehner and and Majority Leader Eric Cantor to “restart efforts to repeal Obamacare in its entirety this year, next year, and until we are successful,” and failing that, to “affirmatively defund the implementation of Obamacare in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House floor in the 113th Congress.”
The repeal movement also has supporters in the Senate. On Monday morning, Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson backed Ryan up, saying on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “I think the costs associated with Obamacare are grossly understated,” adding “I think this is going to explode our deficit, it’s going to lead to rationing. It’s going to lead to rationing and a lower quality of care.”
Additionally, a trio of Tea Party-backed senators — Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Mike Lee (R-UT) — are threatening to shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded. Rubio told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday:
Senator Cruz from Texas is offering this amendment to defund Obamacare. If that gets onto the bill, in essence, if they get a continuing resolution and we can get a vote on that and pass that onto the bill, I’ll vote for a continuing resolution, even if it’s temporary, because it does something permanent, and that’s defund this health care bill, this Obamacare bill, that is going to be an absolute disaster for the American economy.
Not all Republicans are still deluding themselves over the Affordable Care Act. In recent weeks, conservative Republican governors such as New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Florida’s Rick Scott, and Arizona’s Jan Brewer have all reversed their previous opposition to the law’s Medicaid expansion. But whether congressional Republicans ever drop their quest to take health care coverage away from tens of millions of Americans — against the will of the American people — remains to be seen.
In the meantime, by continuing to fight against a law that has been approved by Congress, the Supreme Court, and the American electorate, Republicans will play out the classic definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr