Amid signs that Republicans are warming to some provisions of President Obama’s health care law, influential conservative groups are warning the GOP not to waver on their promise to repeal the measure in its entirety.
Conservative advocates are displeased that Republicans are privately weighing a replacement plan that involves reinstating popular elements of the health care law — including its coverage guarantee regardless of pre-existing conditions, the ability to remain on a parent’s plan until age 26 and provisions that close the Medicare “doughnut hole.”
FreedomWorks and Club for Growth, two powerful conservative interest groups that are fresh off of purging the Senate’s longest-serving Republican for insufficient fealty to the right, are flexing their muscles.
“The Club for Growth supports complete repeal of Obamacare. And complete doesn’t mean partial. It means complete,” said Barney Keller, a spokesman for the group. “We urge the so-called ‘tea party’ Republicans to keep their promises to voters and continue to fight for complete repeal as well.”
The group was responding to remarks by Rep. Allen West (R-FL), a tea party darling, expressing support for those three “Obamacare” provisions as part of a potential GOP replacement plan. Republican leaders want to be prepared to execute fall-back legislation in the event the Supreme Court neuters the law when it publishes a decision next month, largely to mitigate the election-year pushback for scrapping its popular benefits.
Dean Clancy, who leads health care advocacy for FreedomWorks, said the group “would be very concerned about bills to resurrect parts of Obamacare.”
He said Republicans should take no responsibility for the broken system that would result.
“It would be the height of folly for Republicans to say, OK, this is our problem now,” he said. “It’s not the Republicans’ fault if 25-year-old slackers suddenly are dropped from mom and dad’s health insurance policy. It’s not the Republicans’ fault if various other provisions of Obamacare are no longer on the books. … The American people need to have a chance to reflect on the fact that the Democrats basically rammed an unconstitutional bill down their throat.”
The GOP’s pledge of full repeal — and conservative warnings that they would accept nothing less — obscures the question of what the party would do next. The pre-Affordable Care Act health care status quo is widely seen as unsustainable. And the various patchwork plans put forth by Republican lawmakers wouldn’t come close to fixing the major problems with the system — nor do they have sufficient support within the GOP, let alone among Democrats.
The conservative warnings make the GOP’s governing responsibility more difficult by conscripting the party to oppose all aspects of a sweeping, multifaceted law. It’s particularly problematic because “Obamacare,” despite conservative protestations of a government takeover of health care, remains to date the most comprehensive free-market approach to tackling the problem of uninsured Americans who receive emergency care and pass the costs on to taxpayers.
Either way, Clancy doesn’t expect Republicans to mess with the right on this issue.
“My sense in talking with some of them is that they’re not going there,” he said.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.