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Tea partiers: GOP should demand full repeal of health reform

December 29th, 2009, 04:12 am admin Leave a comment Go to comments

Avi Zenilman:

In an interview with me just now, Max Pappas, the Vice President for Public Policy of Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, said that if the bill passes, politicians should call for a full repeal.

“This has an unusual ability to be repealed, and the public is on that side.” he said. “The Republicans are going to have to prove that they are worthy of their votes.”

He emphasized that all the different parts of the bill fit together, and that Congress would need to try to repeal the whole thing.

Obviously, the final health care reform package has yet to pass, and you can’t repeal something that isn’t law, but final passage is a virtual certainty once House and Senate negotiators reach a final deal. As I wrote last week:

After the legislation is enacted, the question of whether the public believes Congress should pass health care reform becomes largely moot. At that point, the question becomes whether to repeal it, improve it, or leave it as is.

Although Republicans are dithering to some extent (witness Mitch McConnell), it’s impossible to imagine that they won’t end up in the “repeal it” camp. (If they don’t, they’ll be forced to admit some aspects of health care reform are actually good, which would enrage their base and undercut their message.)

Meanwhile, as Republicans line up to repeal health care reform, Democrats will be confronted with the same range of options: repeal it, improve it, or leave it as is.

Although it is certainly possible to take a principled (and progressive) position against the bill as doubling down on our failing system, it’s hard to imagine many Democrats supporting repeal. For most on the left, there are simply too many major accomplishments in the bill (expanding insurance coverage, regulations to restrain insurance company abuses) to throw the entire thing in the trash.

At the same time, even if the House-Senate conference goes as well as possible, very few progressives will be able to look themselves in a mirror and declare that this health care reform bill is “Mission Accomplished.” A huge step? Yes. The ultimate reform measure? No way.

Pitted against a GOP pledge to seek full repeal of health care reform, a Democratic message focused on strengthening and improving it is likely to be received quite well by voters. To deliver that message with credibility, however, Democrats must concede that health care reform will be an ongoing process. This bill creates a framework, but there are still finishing touches to be done and important additions (like the public option) to be made. Just as importantly, Democrats must deliver, developing — and committing themselves to — new proposals to improve reform.

As Paul Krugman has noted, the Massachusetts experience shows that most people favor the “mend it, don’t end it” approach. 59% of residents there support the state’s reform law and even more — 79% — want it to continue. Only 11% favored repeal.

Those numbers don’t mean people in Massachusetts are fully satisfied with health care reform, however. 43% say the state cannot afford the law unless it changes (just 40% say the state can afford it).

The bottom-line is that people in Massachusetts are not satisfied with the status quo, but they don’t want to go back in time. For them, the biggest issue is cost control and affordability, and the same experience is likely to be repeated in the nation at large.

Once reform passes, Republicans will find themselves looking backwards, arguing for repealing the new health care reform law. That isn’t a good position to be in. On the Democratic side, passing the law and declaring it the ultimate and final step in health care from would be equally untenable. But if Democrats credibly make the case that they not only have passed health care reform — extending coverage to 94% of residents and protecting Americans from insurance company abuses — but also have plans to improve it and make it even better, they very well may end up proving the political consensus — that health care reform is a political disaster — upside down.

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