The fight over the Affordable Care Act is over… isn't it? After all, ObamaCare survived the Supreme Court and more than 30 votes by House Republicans to repeal it. Even House Speaker John Boehner seemed to throw in the towel after President Obama was re-elected, telling ABC News' Diane Sawyer: "ObamaCare is the law of the land."
Apparently, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) missed the memo. He's out with a new budget, and in it, he bases his projections on ObamaCare being repealed. Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, he had this exchange with host Chris Wallace:
WALLACE: I'm going to pick up on this because I must say I didn't understand it. Are you saying that as part of your budget, you would repeal, you assume the repeal of ObamaCare?
WALLACE: Well, that's not going to happen.
As Jill Lawrence at National Journal points out, "[f]or repeal to be feasible in 2017, a Republican would have to win the White House in 2016; Republicans would need to hold their House majority, and Republicans would need a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate (15 more than they have now)." And even if all of that happens, Republicans would still likely face an uphill climb. Key portions of the Affordable Care Act that haven't gone into effect yet will in 2014, and generally, Americans are loathe to give up benefits once they start receiving them. In the past, much of the GOP repeal strategy was based on scrapping the law before it was fully implemented.
So why is Ryan still pushing for repeal? Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast has a theory:
[I]n reality land, ObamaCare contributes to deficit reduction … But in Republican land, it's an article of faith that the ACA increases the deficit. This being the case, or "the case" as it were, then how in the world could Ryan introduce a new budget to eliminate the deficit in 10 years that includes ObamaCare? He'd be destroyed by the agitprop machine of the right if his budget did that, both because they just detest the thing and because it "increases" the deficit. [The Daily Beast]
At Slate, David Weigel suggests that Ryan "is here to assure conservatives that ObamaCare repeal is alive and thriving" because "asking Republicans to support 'ObamaCare repeal' is easier than getting offended at a GoDaddy ad." In other words, keeping the myth of repeal alive is a political winner, even if it's not going to happen.
That might be working. Over at the right-wing Breitbart, Joel Pollack cheers Ryan for playing the "long game on ObamaCare." The congressman, Pollack writes, "is evidently hoping that long-term budget realities will eventually turn the argument in his — and his party's — favor." And in the meantime, "Ryan’s insistence on repealing ObamaCare will cheer conservatives, who have been frustrated by the defections of several prominent GOP governors, who have chosen to accept ObamaCare funding to expand Medicaid for their states."
One other benefit for Ryan: He's effectively stolen the headlines back from another Republican named Paul who's suddenly garnering presidential buzz for droning on about drones.