Just a few months ago, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor(R-VA) said Republicans were closing in on their own Obamacare alternative.
But now that some 8 million people have signed up for coverage under the law’s new exchanges and millions more gain coverage through Medicaid expansion, the GOP seems to be quietly backing away from their own plan—at least until after the midterm elections.
For perhaps the first time in months, House Republicans have no scheduled votes or hearings on the president’s health care law, and Cantor has yet to commit to unveiling a GOP plan before August recess, as The Hill noted, signaling a shift in the GOP’s Obamacare strategy ahead of November.
Some Republicans have even suggested that their party doesn’t have a plan at all. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) told constituents in a video by ThinkProgress, “We’ve gone so far in the last few years saying ‘No’ that we don’t have an alternative to say ‘Yes’ to.
“I think one of the most unfortunate things my party did the last three years was not offer an alternative to health care…I wish we had an alternative,” Ross said. “For the next six months, we’re going to go into an election, knowing that we’re not going to do anything to address health care.”
Some Republicans say the law is here to stay—beyond the midterm elections even if they take control of the Senate.
“The chance of repealing Obamacare is zero,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) said at a Rotary Club in his district on Tuesday, according to The Daily Home.
Though several polls show the public favors fixing the law over getting rid of it, a new survey by McLaughlin & Associates found that 48 percent of voters said they were more likely to vote for a Republican who would repeal and replace Obamacare if the candidate also proposed a new plan of their own. The survey found that in a hypothetical race that a Republican running on the “repeal and replace” strategy (with an alternative plan) would beat a Democrat running on a “retain but fix” strategy by 47 to 43 percent.
Republican aides on the Hill say they don’t expect much movement until after the midterm elections. Congress is only in session for 35 more days until August recess.
Still, Republican strategists suggest that GOP candidates should continue campaigning against Obamacare—attacking it as much as possible, since the public continues to have a largely unpopular view of the law. Pew recently reported that a record high of 55 percent of Americans view Obamacare unfavorably.
GOP strategist, John Freehery, president of Quinn Gillespie Communications and a former spokesman for then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) called the president’s health care law “the gift that keeps giving for the GOP.”
“They should do everything they can to talk about the flaws in the law specifically,” Freehery said. “Keep the focus on Obamacare.”
Meanwhile, vulnerable Senate Democrats running on the “keep and fix” mantra including Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have proposed legislation aimed at improving the law. Senate leadership, however, has not signaled whether the upper chamber will take up any of the fix-it in the near future, suggesting that they will also likely be put on hold until after the midterms.
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