The Affordable Care Act's open-enrollment period is now two weeks old, and any fair assessment would say the rollout has been difficult. Indeed, Ezra Klein caused a stir this morning with an unflinching piece calling the launch a "failure" and a "disaster," which is harsh but fair.
The larger context and circumstances certainly matter. As we discussed last week, similar rollouts for Medicare Part D and Romneycare in Massachusetts faced similar problems in their infancy, and like them, there's every reason to believe the Affordable Care Act will get its act together. It's also worth considering how and why these problems have plagued the new system, and how much smoother the process might be with some modicum of Republican cooperation.
But it's the larger political irony that's hard to miss. "Obamacare" is off to a rough start, but it's become more popular, not less. Instead of Republicans capitalizing on the bad news surrounding the law, they're effectively being forced to give up on their repeal crusade altogether.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, said on Fox News Sunday that the GOP's "overreach" in trying to defund Obamacare should be a warning to Democrats as they fight to undo the devastating spending cuts known as sequestration.
"Republicans started off in a place that was an overreach, to defund a law that was central to the president's agenda was not achievable," he said.
Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) much-discussed Wall Street Journal op-ed last week ignored the health care law; Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said last week that going after the Affordable Care Act is "currently off the table"; Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has told his party it's time to move on; and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has characterized the Republican efforts to defund the law as "a bridge too far."
A Senate Republican aide told TPM this morning, "Outside a few borderline delusional folks, no one believes there's a viable strategy to stop Obamacare."
The air is clearly escaping this balloon.
Byron York added this morning:
What if, instead of throwing its political energy into a failing effort to defund Obamacare, the Republican Party had spent the month of August, and then September, and now October, pounding the Obama administration on the arrival of the president's national health care scheme? What if the days before October 1 had been filled with Republican predictions of calamity, and the days after filled with Republican exploitation of that calamity?
Last year, Republican officials up and down the ballot argued the 2012 elections were the party's last chance to derail the Affordable Care Act. Once they lost those elections, Republican officials declared, "Never mind what we said before; this budget fight really is our last chance to derail the Affordable Care Act." And now they've lost this round, too.
There won't be a third. The repeal crusade was a flop.
Sure, it's possible congressional Republicans will vote a few more times to gut the law -- at last count, I think we're up to 46 repeal votes in the House -- but it's slowly dawning on the party that their dream will not be realized.
They can try to go through the motions in the months and years ahead, but it's more likely to create eye-rolling than results.