Progressive pundits and policy wonks boast that, despite Tuesday’s Republican victory in the House, ObamaCare will be very difficult to eradicate. They correctly point out that, to get rid of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), both houses of Congress must pass repeal legislation and that a Democrat filibuster would more than likely forestall any such effort in the Senate. They further point out that President Obama would certainly veto any repeal bill that somehow found its way to his desk, and that there is virtually no chance that his veto would be overridden. All of this is absolutely true. Moreover, the PPACA infection has already been introduced into the health care system and has begun to spread. Nonetheless, when the Republicans officially take control of the House in January, they will still have the ability inoculate us against future outbreaks of this contagion.
The three-stage vaccine with which the GOP can stop the spread of PPACA has already been proven effective — in Massachusetts of all places. It will come as a surprise to many that Romneycare was not the first “universal coverage” law to be inflicted on the long-suffering citizens of the Bay State. In 1988 that state’s legislature passed a health care bill containing many of the provisions that later reappeared in the 2006 boondoggle signed by Romney. That “reform” program was signed into law by then-governor Michael Dukakis, who gave it a prominent place in his résumé during his unsuccessful bid for the presidency. Like polio, however, “DukakisCare” is all but forgotten. Why? Because a group of newly elected state legislators defunded the program, delayed its implementation and, for all intents and purposes, killed it after Republican William Weld was elected governor in 1990.
The many similarities between the DukakisCare and ObamaCare situations have not received any attention in the media, of course, but they have not been lost on everyone. Mike Stopa, who unsuccessfully sought the 2010 Republican congressional nomination for the MA-3 district, offered a PPACA repeal plan whose introduction declared, “[T]he experience of Massachusetts in the late 1980’s… serves as a model in our current situation.” Indeed it does. Not long after the Dukakis legislation passed, the GOP made significant gains in the state legislature and immediately set about dismantling the bill. There are also parallels in the executive branch. As Stopa put it, “Michael Dukakis passed universal healthcare in 1988 and his term as governor ended in 1990. Barack Obama passed PPACA in 2010 and his term ends in 2012.” All of which suggests that the “MA vaccine” could work on ObamaCare.
For the newly empowered GOP, however, the most difficult stage of the vaccination process may be the first — getting solidly behind the defunding project. Their vociferous denunciations of PPACA notwithstanding, many House Republicans have expressed reservations similar to those of Rep. Paul Ryan: “Well, yeah, technically speaking, we can put riders in appropriations bills that say, ‘No such funds can go to HHS to do x, y, or z in implementing ObamaCare.’ He’s gotta sign those things. And he doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would sign those things.” Similar noises have been heard in the upper chamber. Retiring Senator Judd Gregg recently said, “I don’t think starving or repealing is probably the best approach here …”
These and other Republicans are understandably chary of fighting a PR war with the White House. Their shellacking by Bill Clinton in 1995 is still green in their memories. But much has changed since then. Fifteen years ago, the Democrat-friendly “news” media could exert considerable control over the public perception of a battle between Congress and the President. Now, the blogosphere and conservative talk radio can — and will — provide an alternate narrative. And the voters who came out in such impressive numbers to repudiate the Democrats are not likely to be patient with a pusillanimous approach on this issue. Most would likely agree with the chairman of DeFundIt.org, who responded thus to Ryan’s squeamishness: “[I]t is a policy battle we must fight…. Make no mistake, the conservative base will revolt against a Republican Party that backs down in a funding fight over ObamaCare.”
Assuming the Republicans can absorb this reality and summon the courage to face down the President on funding, they can move to the second stage of the vaccination process. In addition to the power of the purse, the new House majority will also have subpoena power that can be used to delay implementation. They can hold numerous and protracted public hearings, while demanding all manner of documentation from the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). They can summon HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to answer questions about her 2009 gag order to insurance companies and her growing reputation as an enemy of the First Amendment. It would also be instructive to hear CMS administrator Donald Berwick to elaborate on statements like, “Any healthcare funding plan that is just … must redistribute wealth.”
The third and final stage of the vaccine must, of course, be administered in 2012. The event that enabled Massachusetts legislators to finish off the 1988 universal coverage bill was the replacement of Michael Dukakis with Republican William Weld. The decision, by the former, not to seek reelection in 1990 made that process easier than might otherwise have been the case. Needless to say, Barack Obama is very unlikely to follow the Duke’s example. However, if the President stays true to form and refuses to face the reality that the American people do want to “re-litigate” the reform issue, it is at least possible that a good Republican opponent can beat him in the 2012 presidential contest. And Tuesday’s big GOP gains in key state houses and legislatures, particularly in crucial battlegrounds like Pennsylvania and Ohio, render an Obama defeat even more plausible.
Cynics will argue that, even if Obama can be given the bum’s rush in 2012, that doesn’t guarantee the success of this three-stage vaccine. And it is certainly true that it didn’t permanently inoculate the Bay State from new and more virulent strains of health “reform.” But that’s hardly an argument for supinely allowing the PPACA to spread or waiting for the Supreme Court to provide a miracle cure. This contagion must be eradicated now. John Boehner was right when he said, “[W]e have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill…” And, if outright repeal isn’t possible, then the MA vaccine is the next best alternative.
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