Earlier today, in an effort to placate party conservatives, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) signed onto two discharge petitions offered by Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Wally Herger (R-CA). The petitions will need to attract 218 members to force the House to take up repeal legislation that would eliminate the entirety of the health law. Herger’s measure would also replace the law with “common-sense reforms.”
The move is a significant departure for the Republican leaders who have previously claimed that they would like to preserve the more popular elements of health care reform and repeal “the other” mandates. For instance, back in January, Cantor told Politico’s Mike Allen that Republicans “WILL NOT campaign for full health care repeal, but will demand partial repeal, including mandates for health coverage.” Boehner sang a similar tune as recently as April:
BOEHNER: Both of those ideas [ending rescission and extending dependent coverage], by the way, came from Republicans, and are part of the common sense ideas that we ought to have in the law.
INSKEEP: Well, are you going to repeal those two specific things?
BOEHNER Uh, what I want to repeal are the other 158 mandates, commissions, boards that set up all the infrastructure for the government to take control of our health care system.
Boehner’s and Cantor’s new position represents a significant victory for conservative activists like King, who have complained about the leadership’s reluctance to support full repeal, but some grassroots activist are still not pleased. Red States’ Eric Ericson complains that Boehner and Cantor “want to bully Republican House members into signing the Herger petition and undercut the repeal effort with a “replace and replace with lame legislation” effort. In effect, this undercuts a unified repeal effort and muddies the waters.”
But the leadership’s endorsement of the discharge petition also pits the GOP against popular provisions like access to insurance for people with pre-existing conditions and dependent coverage and may create more divisions within the caucus. Back in March, Rep. Phil Gingrey said, “When we say start over, we don’t mean throw everything out – throw out the baby with the bath water. We mean, take the best of this bill and combine it with our ideas.” In April, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) told a town hall meeting, “there are a lot of things in this bill I think you and I certainly like.” “I think as a practicality you’re going to have trouble repealing the whole deal,” Kingsdale said. “But there ought to be areas where Democrats and Republicans can come together.”