On Tuesday Meghan McCarthy wrote a story in the National Journal that asked, "Are GOP Leaders Going Soft on 'Obamacare?'" "Top tea partiers in Congress," she wrote, "openly worry about the commitment to defund the health care law."
Soft on "Obamacare." That's not exactly how I would term it. These tea party folks clearly have high standards for vigorous opposition. After all, in their brief time under the far-right leadership of Speaker John Boehner, the Republicans in the U.S. House have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, defund it and eliminate all funding for life-saving health care services for women. They've launched several senseless investigations, and they obsessively and almost psychotically trash the new health care law using any microphone they can get near. When it comes to getting rid of "Obamacare," I'd say Speaker Boehner appears to be giving it his all.
But for "top tea partiers" like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), that's not good enough. According to McCarthy, they've been "leading an effort to strip an estimated $105 billion in mandatory funding from the statute," but Bachmann "fears that the Republican leadership will try to placate the conservative base with empty gestures that leave the funding in place."
Talking about her Republican leaders in advance of Tuesday's budget extension vote, Bachmann explained: "I think there's going to be a fake appeasement with the Planned Parenthood thing and a fake appeasement with the 'Obamacare' thing."
What Bachmann means is that the House leaders set aside their efforts to defund civilization as we know it in order to get agreement on a short-term budget. That's why she was attacking her leaders, and possibly (and regrettably) used the word "appeasement" as a thinly veiled reference to Neville Chamberlain's foreign policy before World War II. Bachmann, as we all know, likes to make historical references, even when that means rewriting history as she did over the weekend, when she confused the role (in prepared remarks - twice!) that New Hampshire and Massachusetts played in the start of the Revolutionary War. Bachmann's explanation, by the way, was the best part: "So I misplaced the battles of Concord and Lexington by saying they were in New Hampshire. It was my mistake, Massachusetts is where they happened. New Hampshire is where they are still proud of it!" I love that.
Here's the thing: It's true that Bachmann and King are fanatical whack jobs who represent the hyper-extremists in the Republican House majority (like the 54 Republicans who voted against the budget bill on Tuesday because it didn't cut enough). But they're just plain wrong in saying that the relentless opposition to the Affordable Care Act by their leaders is inadequate. Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are doing just fine trashing the health law and backing that up with legislative action.
If Bachmann and King want to criticize Boehner and other Republican leaders, they should dump on them for hiding behind partisan political rhetoric that obscures the negative impact that repealing the new health care law would have on America's families, seniors and small businesses - all of whom already are benefiting from the law's cost savings and consumer protections. Why don't Bachmann and King tell the truth about what it would mean for their constituents if the health care law was defunded and repealed - and urge Boehner to do the same? That would show that they're true to their principles.
For starters, the extremist Republicans could say that they want to take us back to the days when insurance companies could deny your care because you have a pre-existing condition, drop you for getting sick and jack up your rates whenever they felt like it. That's not so hard to say, and it's clearer than a bunch of political mumbo-jumbo about "Obamacare." Why not try a little "straight talk," the kind Sen. John McCain was so fond of before the 2008 Republican presidential nominee morphed from a maverick into a political Neanderthal during his tough Senate reelection campaign last fall?
Next week, to celebrate the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, thousands of people will be participating in events from coast to coast to highlight the benefits and protections of the new law, such as the ban on insurance companies denying coverage and care because of a pre-existing condition. Since the Republicans are against these kinds of consumer protections, why don't they just come out and say what they're really for and against?
The Republicans should tell cancer patients with crushing medical costs that the GOP wants to reinstate annual and lifetime benefit limits that will force them into bankruptcy and deny them the care they need. They should let young adults know they have to quit their parents' health plans while looking for a job in this tough economy. The Republicans should go door-to-door and tell thousands of seniors to cough up the $250 donut-hole checks the new law provided to help them buy prescription drugs. The Republicans should tell seniors they're ending the 50% discount on brand-name medicines and hold town hall meetings to let small businesses know they're taking away job-creating tax credits.
If the Republicans reach out to the public and tell the truth about repeal, we'll all know they have the courage of their convictions. If the GOP's leaders personally take away the insurance cards of children with chronic medical conditions, maybe that will even satisfy Representatives Bachmann and King that the GOP has not gone soft on "Obamacare."
Cross posted on the NOW!Blog here.