On Friday, the President vetoed H.R.3762, which would have repealed Obamacare’s worst provisions. This was not a surprise. Nor was it, as the law’s apologists claim, an indication that the fight is over. As House Speaker Paul Ryan . put it, “The idea that Obamacare is the law of the land for good is a myth. This law will collapse under its own weight, or it will be repealed.… It’s just a matter of time.” Only one vote, Obama’s, saved it this time. If he is replaced by a Republican next January, the “Affordable Care Act” will go shortly thereafter.
Advocates of Obamacare scoff at the suggestion that it will ever be repealed. These people would do well to remember that the supporters of the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) had a similarly smug attitude. Democrat Senator Morris Sheppard, who was instrumental in imposing Prohibition on the nation, provided a cautionary lesson about such hubris in 1930: “There’s as much chance of repealing the 18th Amendment as there is for a humming bird to fly to Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.” Prohibition was repealed in 1933.
And, because all that is required to banish Obamacare to outer darkness is a GOP victory next November, the health care law is in greater peril than was Prohibition at the time of Senator Sheppard’s smug boast. According to the Real Clear Politics polling averages, Marco Rubio . would likely defeat Hillary Clinton in the general election. Likewise, Ted Cruz . would probably put paid to her presidential ambitions. Either of these candidates would gleefully relegate Obamacare to the graveyard of misbegotten laws passed by power mad Democrats.
Obamacare would have lots of company in that necropolis. One of its neighbors would be the Sedition Act of 1918, which authorizes the government to imprison Americans for disloyal utterances. This outrage was passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress and signed into law by Democrat President Woodrow Wilson in an attempt to protect the latter from public criticism concerning his conduct during World War I. Wilson had lied to the voters about his intention to involve the country in the war, and the Sedition Act made it a federal crime to say so.
The voters punished Wilson’s perfidy by giving the GOP large majorities in both houses of Congress in the 1918 midterms and the new Republican majority repealed the Sedition Act in 1920. This, by the way, was the same Republican Congress that finally crushed four decades of Democrat opposition — including that of Wilson — to women’s suffrage. The Republican majority passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the vote, whereupon the states quickly ratified it. This is worth remembering the next time Hillary Clinton calls the GOP anti-woman.
Not all of the bad laws passed by the Democrats and later repealed by Republicans have been as dangerous as the Sedition Act. Some were merely dumb. An excellent example of such stupidity can be found by fast forwarding to 1974, when the Democrats held substantial majorities in Congress and decided to solve the energy crisis by passing the National Maximum Speed Law. This stroke of legislative genius capped speed limits at 55 miles per hour across the country. President Nixon, who was a little distracted that year, signed it into law.
This ridiculous statute produced no measurable benefit, of course. Nonetheless, like Obamacare apologists, its advocates made extravagant claims about its “successes” (i.e. fuel conserved and lives saved). Various studies, however, failed to find evidence supporting such claims in the data. The Heritage Foundation, for example, showed that the law’s costs outweighed any fuel savings and that the lives it purportedly saved were attributable to other factors. The Republicans repealed the law shortly after regaining its congressional majorities in 1995.
And yet, despite the repeal of the idiotic National Maximum Speed Law, the Sedition Act, the 18th Amendment, and countless others not covered here, Obamacare’s apologists would have us believe that the President’s “signature domestic achievement” will somehow remain immutable as long as the wind blows and the grass grows. The weirdest irony of this position is that the perversely titled “Affordable Care Act” has already been changed at least 56 times by executive order, administrative action by HHS, and several rulings by the Supreme Court.
Moreover, Congress has already pulled the plug on several of the Obamacare’s provisions and those repeals were quietly signed by the President. In April of 2011, for example, the so-called 1099 mandate, which would have required all businesses to report vendor transactions of $600 or more, was repealed. During the same month, the provisions allowing “free-choice vouchers” and permitting the IRS to hire new “enforcers” were repealed. And, in January of 2013, the law’s Community Living Assistance Services and Supports provision was repealed.
All of which is to say that Obamacare is safe as long as the current President remains in office to protect it. But he’ll be gone in a year, and no law as unpopular and dysfunctional as this one will long outlast him. This is particularly true if a Republican wins, which is well within the range of possibility if the Democrat nominee is Hillary Clinton. In that eventuality, the GOP will probably maintain their majorities in the House and Senate. In that case, as Paul Ryan put it, “Obamacare is gone. It’s only a matter of time.”