The extreme right-wing of the Republican Party, supported by the Tea Party movement, is pushing to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act. “We are putting the marker down now,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) told Tea Party activists last week. “We are going to continue to fight to repeal this thing and we’re filing it tomorrow.”
Marco Rubio, who is running against Gov. Charlie Crist in the Republican primary for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat, has also said that he supports repeal. Last week, he launched a petition on his site, saying that he pledges “to undo this legislation and start over with common sense health care reforms.” He even has a whole page devoted to “Repeal It” on his campaign site.
Today in a debate on Fox News Sunday with Crist, Rubio, however, admitted that the repeal campaign isn’t realistic until Republicans “win a few elections”:
WALLACE: Mr. Rubio, now that the health care reform bill is law, would you, if you go to Washington, work to repeal it? How would you do it given the fact that Barack Obama will still be president and could veto a repeal? […]
RUBIO: I think the first step is to repeal it. We need to win a few elections before we can get there. But we certainly need to start campaigning and talking about it.
Other Republicans have also come out and acknowledged that the repeal movement is little more than political gamesmanship:
— Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ): “Our view is that we should repeal and replace the bill with the solutions that we think actually work. Obviously, the president will not sign a repeal bill that the Congress passes, so that’s more of a symbol. … Barack Obama is president. He would never sign a repeal law. We don’t have the votes to get it passed right now. We’re not going to waste our time on that.”
— Newt Gingrich: “What you have to do is be politically honest. If the Republicans win a majority in the House and Senate next year, they will not be able to repeal the bill. The president would veto it.”
Repealing the entire Affordable Care Act would mean re-instituting denials of coverage based on preexisting conditions and rescinding coverage for millions. Even some Republicans like Rep. Phil Gingrey (GA) have said that they do not want to repeal everything in the bill. Rubio, however, signed a pledge to repeal health care reform before it even became law. “There are no shortage of statements made by Marco stressing his belief that the plan should have been scrapped months ago, and now that it has become law, should be repealed,” said his campaign last week. More on the GOP repeal campaign in The Progress Report.
WALLACE: Mr. Rubio, now that the health care reform bill is law, would you, if you go to Washington, work to repeal it? How would you do it given the fact that Barack Obama will still be president and could veto a repeal? And I want to ask you about an article you wrote last December. Let’s put it up on the screen: “Any solution should ultimately seek to promote a vibrant private market where individuals can buy health insurance the way we buy auto insurance — independent of our employer, with the kind of flexibility and coverage we need, and at affordable prices.
Mr. Rubio, would you move away from an employer-based health insurer system?
RUBIO: Well, it’s not moving away, it’s about providing an alternative to it. Let me first tell you about the bill. There are so many things wrong with the bill, we don’t have enough time —
WALLACE: Talking about the —
RUBIO: In the health care bill. We don’t have enough time to talk about it, whether it’s tricky accounting or other. But here’s the main thing: We can’t afford it. The bill, when the true numbers are applied to it, add to the debt and bring us closer to insolvency as a nation. We have to move away from it.
The solutions are like those outlined in the article you pointed to a moment ago. It’s about allowing individuals to have the same tax benefits that the employers get when they try to buy insurance from the marketplace. It’s about allowing small businesses to pool together to buy insurance coverage, and to do so across state lines. It’s about tort reform. It’s about lawsuit abuse reform to help lower the cost of health insurance. These are the reforms we should be working on.
I think the first step is to repeal it. We need to win a few elections before we can get there. But we certainly need to start campaigning and talking about it.