Former president Donald Trump indicated over the holiday weekend that he still has his sights set on a familiar old target: Obamacare.
In a post on social media Saturday, Trump, the polling frontrunner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, suggested that he would seek to take another shot at replacing the 2010 Affordable Care Act if elected to another term.
“The cost of Obamacare is out of control, plus, it’s not good Healthcare. I’m seriously looking at alternatives," Trump wrote. “We had a couple of Republican Senators who campaigned for 6 years against it, and then raised their hands not to terminate it. It was a low point for the Republican Party, but we should never give up!”
Why it matters: Trump is dredging up an issue that Republicans have dropped as a political loser after multiple failed efforts to roll back the Obama-era law. While Trump’s comment about “seriously looking at alternatives” is essentially meaningless at the moment, his post could give President Joe Biden and Democrats a cudgel to use against him and the GOP.
The ACA has grown in popularity, and Sahil Kapur of NBC News notes that Republicans are vulnerable on healthcare more generally, with a September poll showing that voters trust Democrats over Republicans on the issue by a 45-22 margin that contrasts with perceptions of the parties on the economy, immigration and crime.
Biden took aim at Trump Monday without mentioning him by name. “My predecessor has once again — God love him — called for cuts that could rip away health insurance for tens of millions of Americans in Medicaid. They just don’t give up,” Biden said at a meeting on strengthening supply chains. “But guess what? We won’t let these things happen.”
Biden also criticized Republicans for seeking to roll back his Inflation Reduction Act, which cut the cost diabetic patients pay for insulin and capped out-of-pocket drug expenses while also allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices for the first time.
The Biden campaign also hit back at Trump on Monday, saying that 40 million people – more than 1 in 10 Americans – are covered today because of the law that Trump is threatening to repeal. “He was one vote away from getting it done when he was president – and we should take him at his word that he’ll try to do it again,” Biden-Harris 2024 spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement. “Donald Trump’s America is one where millions of people lose their health insurance and seniors and families across the country face exorbitant costs just to stay healthy. Those are the stakes next November.”
Could Republicans actually do it? Trump is replaying his greatest misses here and his post shows that he still harbors deep resentment toward former Sen. John McCain, who famously gave a thumbs-down to Republicans’ last effort to repeal Obamacare, and to Barack Obama.
The chances of repealing Obamacare at this point might appear slim to nonexistent, much like the chances of Trump enacting a policy that would be both and cheaper. At a minimum, a repeal would require Republicans to win the White House and control both chambers of Congress. But left-leaning New York magazine political columnist Jonathan Chait writes that Trump and Republicans just might have a shot depending on the 2024 election outcome: “It might seem hard to believe that Republicans would reprise the most politically calamitous episode of the Trump presidency,” he writes. “But there are several reasons why they might try again and why it could even work.”
Republicans have a good chance at winning control of the Senate next year, and if they can hold the House and win the White House, repealing Obamacare could once again be high on their agenda, Chait says: “Obamacare is popular, and cutting it would risk another white-hot political backlash. But politicians run for office so they can do things. And cutting or eliminating Obamacare is a thing nearly every Republican would desperately like to do.”