BARTON VOWS REFORM REPEAL…. It’s hollow bravado, but it’s nevertheless interesting hollow bravado. (Faiz Shakir has the video.)

The health bill is “dead on arrival” in Congress, said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce committee, said during an interview on Fox News.

“If they somehow manage to get the votes and get enough Democrats to walk the plank and commit suicide, in the next Congress, I’ll be chairman Joe Barton of the Energy and Commerce committee, and we’ll repeal it,” Barton said.

The far-right congressman from ExxonMobil added that passing reform would push Democrats into the “political wilderness.”

As a practical matter, Barton is clearly getting ahead of himself. If health care reform passes, and if voters disapprove, and if there’s an enormous Republican surge and the GOP reclaims the House majority, then Barton would help repeal the historic legislation.

Unless Barton also has a plan to elect a Republican president in 2010 — two years ahead of the next presidential election — this vow won’t amount to much no matter how many seats the GOP gains.

That said, it’s a possible hint of what’s to come. If Dems can get their act together — by no means a foregone conclusion — next year, expect to see some Republican candidates positioning themselves as leading opponents of consumer protections and coverage for the insured. “Vote GOP,” they’ll say, “for the return of the health care system that wasn’t working.”

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.