Republicans promised voters in 2012 that with public support, they would repeal the Affordable Care Act. Voters responded by electing Democrats, seemingly ending the debate.
Indeed, as recently as two months ago, there wasn't much left to fight about. President Obama had won re-election; the health care law's implementation would continue apace; many Republican governors started accepting the law's provisions; House Speaker John Boehner called the Affordable Care Act "the law of the land"; and Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, said, "The arc of partisan fever is beginning to recede, and pragmatism is beginning to come to the fore."
That was late January. Now, congressional Republicans seem to vote uncontrollably on "Obamacare" repeal and National Journal reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has a "secret Republican plan" to destroy the law.
By Election Day, Senate Republicans were ready to, as McConnell put it, "take this monstrosity down."
"We were prepared to do that had we had the votes to do it after the election. Well, the election didn't turn out the way we wanted it to," McConnell told National Journal in an interview. "The monstrosity has ... begun to be implemented and we're not giving up the fight."
Sure, those darned voters got in the way of McConnell's dreams, but the Republican senator apparently only sees that as a minor inconvenience that simply delays his plans.
The "secret Republican plan" really isn't much of a secret. Hell, it's not really much of a plan, either. McConnell's idea is apparently to have Republicans win a bunch of elections and then destroy the law through the reconciliation process so Democrats can't filibuster the GOP's anti-Obamacare crusade.
That's roughly the same plan Republicans came up with last year, right before the electorate re-elected President Obama and expanded the Democratic majority in the Senate.
But as is the case with so many issues -- taxes, deficit reduction, Planned Parenthood, Paul Ryan's budget, etc. -- GOP officials are determined to pretend 2012 didn't happen and the will of the voters is irrelevant.
What's less clear is whether McConnell has actually thought through the consequences, or whether he's so deep into his post-policy vision that he simply no longer cares.
How will he pay for Obamacare repeal, which would cost over $100 billion in the coming decade? What will he do for the millions of Americans who would lose the ability to see a doctor if Obamacare were destroyed? How will he reconcile eliminating Obamacare and Republican plans to rely on Obamacare to balance the federal budget?
McConnell doesn't seem to have answers for any of this. In fact, I'm not altogether sure why, exactly, McConnell hates the Affordable Care Act as much as he thinks he does, or whether this posturing is intended to placate the far-right wing of his party in advance of his 2014 campaign.
But the bottom line remains effectively the same: whereas Republicans were prepared two months ago to move on to other fights, GOP leaders are now back to their preoccupation with, in Paul Ryan's words, "destroying the health care system for the American people."