REPEAL IN ’13? NOT GONNA HAPPEN…. From time to time, congressional Republicans will concede that health care reform, in one form or another, is likely to become law sometime soon. They’ll usually follow it up, however, by assuring the GOP base that Republicans will work to repeal the reform package just as soon as they’re in the majority again — whenever that might be.

National Journal‘s Ron Brownstein notes in his latest piece that we’re likely to hear even more of this.

Some senior House Republicans have already pledged to repeal any health care bill if they regain the majority. And many GOP challengers in 2010 will surely echo them. But with Obama holding a veto pen, Republicans probably couldn’t mount a real threat unless they won the White House in 2012. One top adviser to a possible 2012 GOP presidential contender says that, given the GOP base’s hostility to the reform plan and independents’ unease, it is likely that “most potential [Republican] candidates will argue for wholesale replacement with their own version of health care reform.”

There are some good pieces on this from Matt, Brendan, and Ezra, but I’d just add that I’m not especially worried about the prospects of repeal. Indeed, for all the GOP bluster, I find it hard to believe even the most wild-eyed Republican seriously believes repeal is a possibility.

For one thing, if anyone thinks the year-long effort to pass reform was difficult, just imagine trying to un-pass it. Are Republicans going to craft a new health care plan that can pass the House, get 60 votes in the Senate, and gain approval from some other, future president? They shouldn’t count on it.

For another, any Republican “replacement” health care plan would invariably want to curtail efforts to cover the uninsured — which is exactly why it’s a political impossibility. There will be precious few politicians willing to proudly proclaim to tens of millions of Americans in 2012, “Know that health coverage you’re about to get for you and your family? I’m about to take it away.”

It’s why conservatives have spent the year fighting, lying, and screaming — they know how limited their options will be going forward. Republicans might be able to gut a public option, undermine consumer protections, or make it harder on middle-class families to afford coverage, but those efforts would be difficult, and bring their own political penalties.

Once this bill is done, changes will be incremental and a major overhaul will be all but impossible anytime soon.

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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.