Getting an Obamacare Repeal Bill on Obama’s Desk: For What?

There’s an interesting Rachel Bade/Jennifer Haberkorn piece up at Politico about all the trouble congressional Republicans have encountered in trying to use the budget reconciliation process to pass a simple veto-proof “root and branch” repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Seems the Senate parliamentarian is telling them they’d have to limit themselves to items with an immediate budgetary impact in any reconciliation bill. But any “partial” repeal–much less a replacement–legislation would raise policy questions on which Republicans disagree, and might also involve deficit-boosting consequences for which offsets would have to be found. So some GOPers want to play chicken:

Some conservatives and staff in both chambers, like House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), are urging the chambers to do a straight one- or two-sentence repeal of everything. They argue that the parliamentarian has to look only at the words in front of her during reconciliation and should not be able to force lawmakers to break out the provisions on their own.

One aide working on the matter suggested they may try this and see if it works — but others are doubtful.

I guess I’m unclear as to why this is worth the trouble. Getting legislation repealing Obamacare onto Obama’s desk, long the obsessive goal of congressional Republicans, will not accomplish a thing other than confirming that Obama doesn’t want to kill his signature domestic policy achievement and Republicans do. I think most voters out there for whom opposition to Obamacare is a “bullet vote” have probably already figured out they should vote Republican in 2016. So the whole exercise appears to be one of those “energize the base” things whose value I am always questioning.

I do think that if SCOTUS kills Obamacare subsidies in states using federal exchanges there will be some value in Republicans getting a bogus “fix” onto the president’s desk in order to blame him for the subsequent chaos. In that contingency they could almost certainly structure a bill that would meet the conditions for reconciliation, and could probably tamp down any internal opposition by ensuring dissenters there’s zero chance any of it will become law. But on “root and branch repeal,” they might as well just promise they’ll git er done when President Bush or Walker or Rubio takes office.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.