Since the Obama administration announced that the Affordable Care Act has enrolled at least 8 million people in health care coverage and polls have shown that the ranks of the uninsured are in fact shrinking, the GOP’s four-year campaign against the health care law appears to be losing steam.
Though health care policy may still dominate the midterm elections, here are four indicators that the Republican’s anti-Obamacare fever may be breaking:
1. Republicans appeared disinterested in attacking Obamacare during a key confirmation hearing.
Though Republican strategists warned that Sylvia Burwell’s confirmation to head the Department of Health and Human Services would be used to re-litigate Obamacare, the OMB director sailed through her first hearing at the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, eliciting praise from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and winning the support of Sen Richard Burr (R-NC). While several Republican senators offered pointed critiques of the health care law, many others skipped the hearing altogether or focused on pet projects and concerns. Meanwhile, Democrats up for re-election sought to highlight the benefits of the law. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) — who is facing a tough re-election fight — used her time to highlight the advantages of Medicaid expansion and pointed out that millions of low-income Americans are going without health care coverage because of GOP resistance.
2. Republicans struck out trying to embarrass the administration over Obamacare and then gave up.
Republicans called a House hearing on Wednesday with health insurance companies in an effort to embarrass the White House with revelations about double digit premium increases and claims that one-third of federal exchange enrollees still haven’t paid their health insurance premiums. Instead, the insurance leaders calmly explained that premiums for next year were still being calculated and that more than 80 percent of enrollees have in fact sent in their first-month checks.
One insurance company CEO even observed that while President Obama’s claim that if you like your health insurance plan you can keep it did not apply to everyone, the promise held true for “99 percent of our customers.” As The Hill observed, “Republicans were visibly exasperated as insurers failed to confirm certain assumptions about ObamaCare” and many simply exited the hearing.
3. Republicans have shifted their attention to Benghazi and the IRS.
This week, Republicans announced the formation of a special select committee to investigate the September 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi and voted to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress. As a result, there appears to be little time for Obamacare in D.C. or in conservative media. A TV Eyes search of the term “Obamacare” and “Benghazi” on Fox News between April 28 and May 8 found that the cable news network referenced the health care law 184 times, but mentioned the tragedy in Libya 1,132 times.
Daily Kos’ Jed Lewison also offers this visual representation:
4. Republican House leaders delayed their legislative attacks against Obamacare.
Though Republicans still say that they want to repeal the health care law in its entirety, late last month, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) — the number four ranking Republican in the House of Representatives — appeared to admit in an interview with The Spokesman-Review that Obamacare is here to stay. “We need to look at reforming the exchanges,” the Republican conference chairwoman claimed. The comments came after House Republican leadership delayed efforts to produce a leadership-backed replacement to the health care law.
GOP leaders have promised to back away from repeal in the past — only to walk them back in response to conservative pressure. But with support for the Tea Party dwindling among Republicans, 80 percent of primary filing deadlines behind them, and a growing number of GOP lawmakers coming face to face with Obamacare beneficiaries, the party may focus on reforming rather than repealing the law.