Why Republicans Don’t Have A Mandate To Repeal Health Reform

While it’s difficult to generalize about an election that attracted older and more conservative voters, many of whom said that they were most concerned about the economy and unemployment, one can close the loop on debunking the notion that the Affordable Care Act is to blame for the Democrats’ dismal showings last night.

As Politico’s Pulse pointed out this morning, “Exit polls show health as the second most important factor driving votes (19 percent). It was distantly behind the economy (62 percent).” While half wanted the health law repealed “nearly another half wanted it expanded or kept in place.” And according to a Wonk Room analysis of the election results, of the 34 House Democrats who voted against the final health care bill, 18 lost their bids for reelection, 12 won, 3 retired and 1 race — Rep. Ben Chandler’s (KY) — is still too close to call. Two states, Oklahoma and Arizona, also passed anti-reform ballot initiatives, while voters in Colorado defeated the proposition:

18 Voted AGAINST health care reform, and LOST:
Rep. John Adler (NJ), Rep. Rick Boucher (VA), Rep. Travis Childers (MS), Rep. Lincoln Davis (TN), Rep. Chet Edwards (TX), Rep. Frank Kratovil (MD), Rep. Jim Marshall (GA), Rep. Charlie Melancon (LA) [ran for Senate], Rep. Glenn Nye (VA), Rep. Ike Skelton (MO), Rep. Zack Space (OH), Rep. Gene Taylor (MS), Rep. Harry Teague (NM), Rep. Michael Arcuri (NY), Rep. Bobby Bright (AL), Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD), Rep. Mike McMahon (NY), Rep. Walt Minnick (ID)

12 Voted AGAINST health care reform, and WON:
Rep. Jason Altmire (PA), Rep. John Barrow (GA), Rep. Dan Boren (OK), Rep. Tim Holden (PA), Rep. Larry Kissell (NC), Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA), Rep. Mike McIntyre (NC), Rep. Collin Peterson (MN), Rep. Mike Ross (AR), Rep. Heath Shuler (NC), Rep. Jim Matheson (UT)

2 Referendums AGAINST health reform PASS:
Arizona, Oklahoma

1 Referendum AGAINST individual mandate FAILS:

Last night, members of the House Republican leadership reiterated that they would focus on the economy, before turning their attention to repealing health care reform “lock, stock, and barrel” — an almost impossible feat given the Democrats’ control of the Senate and the Presidency. But prepare yourself for a series of Congressional oversight hearings and investigations into whether or not the Democrats pressured CMS actuaries to sit on cost estimates, HHS regulatory and implementation efforts, and whether the government’s Medicare brochures and Andy Griffith commercials violated the law. Many will also try to de-fund certain parts of the law. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), for instance, has promised to attach repeal legislation to every single appropriations measure.

Republicans may succeed in changing small parts of the legislation, however. This morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told CNN that he would be open to re-visiting the health care law. “If there is some tweaking we need to do on the health care bill, I’m ready for some tweaking,” he said, possibly referring to the unpopular 1099 reporting requirement for small businesses.

But the greatest gain for anti-reform advocates will be felt in the states, where Republicans won control of 19 statehouse chambers on Tuesday. As Julie Appleby and Mary Agnes Carey point out in this morning’s Kaiser Health News, “Winners included Sam Brownback of Kansas, who called the reform law ‘an abomination.’ Tennessee’s governor-elect, Bill Haslam, said the law is an ‘intolerable expansion’ of federal power and a ‘reminder of the incredible arrogance of Washington.'” While these state Republicans won’t be able to repeal the law outright, they “could slow the pace of implementation, lean on congressional delegations to repeal or change the legislation, seek waivers from some of its provisions, veto state legislation related to it and appoint like-minded people to important positions, such as insurance commissioner slots.”

The success of the Affordable Care Act was always going to depend on the state implementation and even though yesterday’s elections shielded health reform from an outright, up or down Congressional repeal, the GOP’s victories in the statehouses will allow Republicans to weaken reforms’ effectiveness.