Donohue Goes All In, But Chamber Is Split On Health Repeal

Sam Stein is reporting that Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue is now calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, despite previous statements that the organization wouldn’t dedicate any resources to the effort. From today’s speech:

DONOHUE: For example, the new health care law creates 159 new agencies, commissions, panels, and other bodies. It grants extraordinary powers to the Department of Health and Human Services to redefine health care as we know it. […]

By mid-December, HHS had already granted 222 waivers to the law — a revealing acknowledgement that the law is unworkable. And, with key provisions under challenge in the courts by states and others, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Last year, while strongly advocating health care reform, the Chamber was a leader in the fight against this particular bill — and thus we support legislation in the House to repeal it. We see the upcoming House vote as an opportunity for everyone to take a fresh look at health care reform — and to replace unworkable approaches with more effective measures that will lower costs, expand access, and improve quality.


But the Chamber’s position on the law is more malleable than Donohue’s remarks suggest. For instance, this morning, for instance, during an appearance on CSPAN’s Washington Journal, Commerce Vice President and Chief Operating Officer David Chavern reverted to the organization’s earlier position on repeal when asked about reform:

CHAVERN: Overall, the House Republicans are proposing a bill on repeal of the health care bill, we oppose that bill. We’ll support that repeal effort, but understanding that that’s unlikely to become law law….We really need to focus on the more important thing, which is how can we fix what is passed and what may we be able to add to it to improve it.

Later in the program, Chavern stressed that while the organization is looking to lower the penalties on employers who don’t offer coverage, it supports the individual mandate, a position shared by the health insurance industry, which the Chamber represents. In fact, the “revealing acknowledgment,” to barrow Donohue’s phrase, is that the organization is split on the issue — politically interested in defeating a major Democratic accomplishment, but also encountering some push back from its own members (like health insurance companies) who argue that the law may not be the “job killer” that Republicans claim. After all, businesses are already taking advantage of the law’s early retiree grants, tax credits, and looking forward to the exchanges. They may certainly want to amend the measure, but they may be less inclined to lobby for something as impractical as outright repeal.