When ‘full repeal’ doesn’t mean ‘full repeal’

WHEN ‘FULL REPEAL’ DOESN’T MEAN ‘FULL REPEAL’…. In Florida, Senate candidate Marco Rubio became a darling of the right-wing crowd by taking uncompromising, far-right positions on most issues, most notably health care. Rubio has been unapologetic in calling for a full repeal of all of the Affordable Care Act, regardless of the consequences.

But wouldn’t you know it, as support for health care reform grows, and Americans welcome some of its popular provisions, Rubio isn’t so sure about repealing the whole thing after all. Here’s what the far-right Floridian told National Review and a few other outlets at a D.C. coffee shop yesterday:

He just mentioned that there are two parts within the Obamacare legislation that he doesn’t want repealed. The first is the ban on insurance companies denying coverage based on preexisting conditions and the second is that he thinks that children up to age 26 should be allowed to “buy into” their parents’ coverage.

So, Rubio wants to get rid of that health care law he just hates — except the stuff that everyone seems to like.

His campaign later issued a clarification saying Rubio still wants to repeal “all” of the Affordable Care Act, though he approves of “some” of the ideas “lumped in with the monstrousity [sic] of the final bill.”

There are a couple of problems here. The first is that the Rubio line isn’t exactly coherent. If he plays a role in scrapping the entire law, that will get rid of the very provisions he now claims to support. Maybe he’d try to pass the “good” provisions in a new bill, but that would take a lot of time, and may ultimately fail. Ultimately, Rubio can’t have a full and partial repeal at the same time.

The second is more substantive, and it’s a lesson that Republicans simply refuse to even think about, no matter how many times it’s explained to them. If you’re prepared to ban discrimination on those with pre-existing conditions, then the policy must include an individual mandate. It’s not that complicated — if those with pre-existing conditions are to be protected, the mandate is necessary to keep costs from spiraling and to prevent the “free rider” problem.

Of course, if there’s an individual mandate, then it’s also necessary to include subsidies to those who otherwise couldn’t afford coverage. And once you put this string together — protections for those with pre-existing conditions … which requires a mandate … which requires subsidies — what you’re left with is the Affordable Care Act that right-wing politicians like Marco Rubio are so anxious to repeal in its entirety.

Shouldn’t Rubio have done his homework before launching a Senate campaign?

Regardless, I don’t imagine this will be the last time we’ll see a far-right GOP candidate hedge on a “full” repeal. It’s something to keep an eye on as November draws closer.

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Steve Benen

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.