Alex Wong/Getty Images
House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, speaks during a news conference about the House vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Despite the passage of the Republican-led repeal initiative, Democratic leaders say they see public opinion swinging towards support for the landmark reform bill.
House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, speaks during a news conference about the House vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Despite the passage of the Republican-led repeal initiative, Democratic leaders say they see public opinion swinging towards support for the landmark reform bill. Alex Wong/Getty Images
George Zornick is a Washington reporter at The Nation.
For the thirty-third time since Representative John Boehner, R-Ohio, took the speaker's gavel in 2011, the House of Representatives will vote Wednesday to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act. (In this case, all of it.) As Republicans mount their response to the Supreme Court's recent decision upholding most of the law, the floor has been occupied for two days with florid speeches either extolling or denouncing the legislation.
In a Wednesday morning meeting with progressive bloggers, Democratic members expressed confidence that the entire law — including the Medicaid expansion — would ultimately be implemented and were candid about what they believed the larger Republican strategy was.
"Same crap, different day," said Representative Gwen Moore of Wisconsin. "Republicans have fought against the New Deal, the Great Society, the expansion of Social Security, the establishment of the Social Security Act, Medicaid, Medicare — from day one. This is just another day.
"I think they're most afraid of there being proof that it saves money towards the deficits, that it brings down costs, and I think when it's fully implemented people will see the actual benefits of it," Moore continued. "They know they've got to cut it off at the pass. They've got to cut off before it's fully implemented."
This was a theory echoed by several different members — that Republicans were desperate to obscure what the bill actually does. "The right-wing Tea Party voice that has been heard here against the bill has been very effective at getting people to hate the label," said Representative Sam Farr. "But what they've failed at are getting people to hate the ingredients. Because the ingredients are things that are really helping people."
Representative Chris van Hollen, D-Md., said he believed the misinformation campaign was finally on the verge of losing its punch. "At the beginning of the debate a couple years ago, we just had this massive campaign of distortions and misrepresentations," he said. "First we heard about the death panels. That wasn't true. Then we heard it's going to be a government takeover of healthcare, and that earned Republicans Politifact's Lie of the Year for 2010. Then they said it's unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has now said it's constitutional. They're just losing credibility."
With the repeal vote sure to die in the Senate, the real questions now are about implementation. I quizzed several members on whether they would like to pursue a public option in the next Congress should they regain control of the House. Members of leadership largely sidestepped the issue, but others were gung-ho.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reiterated that she personally supports a single-payer healthcare plan, and also that states could create public options on their exchanges, but stopped short of predicting Congressional action. "It may develop that way — the fact is it saves a lot more money and it is still a good idea," she said.
Van Hollen said that "for now the focus is on implementing the law as it is. Obviously, as its implemented over time there will be adjustments, but I think for now we don't want to do any major surgery.... I think for now the focus should be, the Supreme Court has ruled, we've got good news, let's implement it."
But Representative Jim McDermott, D-Wash., did predict a Democratic 113th Congress would take up the issue as it implements the bill. "Ultimately you're going to get to controlling cost. And one of the ways to do it is a public option. And so I think that will come onto the agenda when we get into the 2013 session and we're implementing and saying, 'All right, now it's actually going to happen,' " he said. "I think the public option will be clearly be one of the issues that gets up on the table."