Remember ‘Repeal and Replace’?

About a month ago, freshman Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) was pressed by some constituents about his vote to eliminate the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, including the popular parts. Duffy suggested he’d been misled by his own party leaders — they’d “committed” to him that the GOP would have a “replacement proposal” by the Spring, but failed to follow through.

Republican leaders made that promise to a lot of people, and at this point, they would prefer that we just forget all about it.

When they took control of the House, Republicans could barely stop talking about their plans to “repeal and replace” the health care reform law.

Six months later, they hardly talk publicly about those plans at all. And they’re nowhere close to “replacing” the law.

House Republicans haven’t held a floor vote on a bill or amendment trying to repeal, defund or even nick the law for six weeks, after a dozen attempts earlier this year. The stream of committee hearings to pick apart the law’s policies — held back-to-back-to-back earlier this year — has slowed to a trickle.

And not a single element of their “replace” agenda has gotten a House floor vote.

Going into the 112th Congress, more than a few Republican leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, said the party’s top goal wasn’t job creation or deficit reduction, but rather, repealing “Obamacare” and replacing it with a GOP alternative. It was always a rather pointless endeavor, since the Democratic Senate and Democratic White House would never go along, but Republicans launched a repeal crusade anyway.

And now, of course, that crusade is just fizzling out.

The key takeaway from all of this, to my mind, isn’t just that the repeal push was a fool’s errand, but also that congressional Republicans were always blowing smoke on the “replace” part of their campaign promise. The GOP finds it easy to tear down, but building up requires policy chops that Republicans frankly don’t have.

Sure, the GOP could come up with some kind of health care reform alternative, but they know perfectly well that it would be awful compared to the Affordable Care Act — rival Republican plans have always failed to cover the uninsured, failed to bring down costs, and failed to protect consumers against insurance-industry abuses.

What’s more, Republicans also realize that many ideas that have traditionally been part of the GOP health care agenda — most notably, the individual mandate — have already been adopted by Democrats.

The result is a party that talked a good game on “repeal and replace,” but couldn’t even try to deliver.