John Boehner didn’t mince words about the chances his former Republican colleagues will pass some sort of repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.
“Here we are, seven months into this year, and yet they’ve not passed this bill,” Boehner told a private audience in Las Vegas last week, according to video footage obtained by The Washington Post. “Now, they’re never — they’re not going to repeal and replace Obamacare. It’s been around too long. And the American people have gotten accustomed to it. Governors have gotten accustomed to this Medicaid expansion, and so trying to pull it back is really not going to work.”
CNN has not independently confirmed the veracity of the video.
This isn’t the first time that the former speaker of the House has expressed his deep skepticism about his former colleagues’ chances of making good on their seven-plus-year promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.
At a health care conference back in February, Boehner said that “in the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never, ever one time agreed on what a healthcare proposal should look like. Not once.” He added: “All this happy talk that went on in November and December and January about repeal, repeal, repeal – yeah we’ll do replace, replace – I started laughing because if you pass repeal without replace, first, anything that happens is your fault. You broke it.”
Republicans would have done well to listen to Boehner since, well, he’s right. It might have saved them a whole lot of agita and pending political peril.
Take Boehner’s points one by one.
1. Repealing Obamacare is impossible because people are used to it
People don’t like change. And many of them really didn’t like the Affordable Care Act. But, it’s the law now – and has been for a while. It’s the devil people know. And replacing that with some sort of devil they don’t is not something most people support.
2. There’s never been consensus on what a GOP health care bill should or would look like
Republicans spent the past seven years bashing the ACA – which worked, politically speaking. For conservatives, Obamacare represented everything they despised – a belief that expanding the federal government’s reach was the answer to fixing a broken system.
But, never during those seven years was there any sort of consensus among Republicans about what their own replacement plan might look like. As we’ve seen in the Senate in the past few weeks, there are deep divisions between conservatives who want free markets to reign in the new legislation and centrists who worry about who such an approach leaves behind. And that’s just the most high-profile of the disagreements within the party on health care.
3. You break it, you bought it
If Republicans voted to get rid of the current system while spending the next year or two debating what to replace it with, they would own every single bad thing that happened to anyone in the country as a result of the uncertainty within the health care system. The idea – put forward by some Republicans – that Democrats would still own the health care law even after a repeal vote is, um, wrong.
Look: It’s possible that Senate Republicans find 50 votes later today to proceed to floor debate – and the amendment process – on a health care bill. (Even with Sen. John McCain’s surprise return to DC, that outcome remains up in the air.)
But, that is a very different thing from finding a way to a) pass a Senate bill b) reconcile it with the House version c) pass the reconciled version through the House and Senate and d) get President Trump to sign it.
What Boehner knows better than almost anyone else is how Republicans in Congress think. And his long – and ongoing – doubts about the ability of those members to find their way to a new health care law should give every one on Capitol Hill pause about the ultimate fate of the GOP’s efforts.