GOP BALKS AT STATE FLEXIBILITY ON HEALTH CARE…. President Obama made an unexpected move yesterday, announcing his support for a shift in health care policy — if, by the time the Affordable Care Act takes effect in 2014, states want to reach the same goals through other means, they’re welcome to do so.

Specifically, the president told the nation’s governors, “[I]f you can come up with a better system for your state to provide coverage of the same quality and affordability as the Affordable Care Act, you can take that route instead.”

Republicans should be thrilled, right? State-based flexibility, a departure from a one-size-fits-all policy, a chance for states to walk away from the confines of the Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate … the White House was handing the GOP a gift.

I hope he kept the receipt.

Mr. Obama’s announcement did not appear to appease his Republican critics. The House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, told reporters that the health law was “an impediment to job growth” and that Republicans remained committed to its repeal.

Right. Republicans don’t want to improve the law or shape it more to their liking; they want to kill it. The White House would gladly work with the GOP on changes, but Republicans prefer to wage a partisan war they know they can’t win.

Ben Smith noted another potential problem for the right.

Much of the debate now focuses on the federal government’s power, and perhaps health care legislation’s critics wouldn’t object to single payer — in Vermont. But the prospect of a backdoor to a single-payer plan anywhere may also sharpen opposition.

In other words, Republicans might want flexibility for state-based experimentation, but may end up rejecting the plan because some states prefer experiments the GOP doesn’t like.

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.