Health care reform and the election, Pt. 1: GOP strategies

By Lauren McNitt

ProducersWEB


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is at the center of the upcoming elections. Republicans are pledging to fight the legislation by repealing the law and defunding it. Will either of these strategies bring them votes? And, more importantly, can the GOP deliver on these promises?

Repeal and replace:
When trying to garner support from voters who are against the health care overhaul, promising to repeal it seems like the obvious solution. However, this strategy has several serious flaws, as pointed out in a recent Washington Post article:
    But that's a risky approach for individual GOP candidates, warns Republican pollster Bill McInturff, a partner of Public Opinion Strategies, a national political and public affairs survey research firm. The reason: Many people already are enjoying some popular new benefits, which include allowing adult children to remain on parents' policies until the age of 26 and a prohibition on insurers' rescinding coverage when people get sick. McInturff has been urging Republicans to use a more moderate message: Keep what's good in the law and replace what's not.
An October poll by Kaiser Health found that 44 percent of Americans view health care reform unfavorably, and 42 percent view it favorably. Despite this decline in support for the bill, only 28 percent said they would support immediate repeal of the law meaning Republicans embracing the repeal and replace strategy could be alienating a number of their constituents.

Further, until a Republican is in the White House, GOP candidates cannot deliver on this promise: Even if they succeeded in getting legislation to repeal the bill through Congress, Obama would immediately veto it.

The “defund” strategy:
Since Republicans have no chance of repealing the health care law until at least 2013, candidates are promising voters they will block funding necessary for implementation of many of its provisions. In fact, defundit.org, a website devoted to the strategy, lists the endorsements of many top GOP candidates.

An article in the Economist outlines the strategy:
    An outright repeal is impossible, as Mr Obama could simply veto any such bill. So Republicans are planning instead a strategy of “defunding” the new health law. Even Tom Daschle, a prominent Democratic former senator, thinks this is the Republicans’ best weapon. In “Getting It Done”, a new book published this week, he declares “It would be all too easy to kill the reform effort not by repealing it, but by starving it.” The bill will need over $100 billion in around 100 new authorizations over the next decade, all of which will require approval from Congress. Besides that, the Republicans could attach provisions to vital bills, such as the budget, that would forbid federal workers (say, at the Internal Revenue Service) from implementing the law. Congressman Paul Ryan, an influential Republican from Wisconsin, insists that “We’ll try every angle, from defunding to budget reconciliation.”
Politico writer Carrie Budoff Brown is more skeptical of the viablility of the defund strategy:
    It’s hardly a quick fix, and it’s unlikely to fully satisfy conservative voters pushing for a speedy repeal of the president’s overhaul. Still, it’s a multipronged attack aimed at constantly putting President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats in the uncomfortable position of defending a law that has yet to win broad public support.
She points out:
    Without a Republican in the White House and comfortable majorities in Congress, the GOP effort to block funding may, in the end, amount to little more than a low-level, yet persistent, annoyance for Obama.