Slow going on far-right repeal push

SLOW GOING ON FAR-RIGHT REPEAL PUSH…. Just a few weeks ago, the conservative push for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act was the only thing Republicans wanted to talk about. It was the center of their election-year focus, and while there was no hope of advancing repeal this year, key GOP officials at least wanted to get Republican lawmakers on board as co-sponsors of a right-wing bill to undo the entire reform package passed in March.

How’s that going? It appears enthusiasm for the idea is waning.

About one month later, neither Bachmann’s bill nor companion bills in the House and Senate have won majority support from their peers. Only 52 House Republicans have co-sponsored Bachmann’s repeal bill, H.R. 4903, and only 62 House Republicans have co-sponsored Rep. Steve King’s (Iowa) repeal bill, H.R. 4972. Most of the same people have co-sponsored both. Only 20 Republican senators have co-sponsored Sen. Jim DeMint’s (S.C.) repeal bill, S. 3152. That worries some Republicans who want to run hard on repeal in November.

“What I run into,” King told me recently, “is that you ask Republicans to support 100 percent full repeal, but there are a number of them that aren’t committed to full repeal. They have an equivocation that they would leave a piece there, a piece there, a piece there. If Republicans cannot unanimously come together and support 100 percent repeal of Obamacare and then start to rebuild, then we will not win this victory, because we’ll be divided by the Democrats and fighting on Obama’s turf.”

Now, in fairness, it’s not realistic to expect Republicans to keep talking about repealing health care reform, even when other issues are on the front-burner. Just because the GOP’s focus is elsewhere doesn’t necessarily mean they’re abandoning their dream of restoring the dysfunctional mess the Affordable Care Act cleans up.

But the relative paucity of co-sponsors does suggest a disconnect between the Republican bark and the Republican bite. It was, after all, just a few months ago when Newt Gingrich boasted on “Meet the Press” that “every Republican in 2010 and 2012 will run on an absolute pledge to repeal this bill.” The sentiment was echoed on right-wing blogs and talk radio.

And now such talk has entirely disappeared, in part because many GOP candidates are well aware of the repeal trap, in part because new, popular benefits of the new law are kicking in, and in part because a genuine repeal push would force Republicans to promise to raise taxes, which they’re not prepared to do.

Two weeks ago, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said getting rid of the Affordable Care is Republicans’ “No. 1 priority.” What are the odds he’s still saying that in October?