WASHINGTON -- If the U.S. government shuts down again in mid-January, it won't be because House Republicans are demanding the repeal of the president's health care law, in a repeat of the standoff that occurred earlier this fall.
"There are no plans to tie a repeal vote to a government funding bill," a senior House GOP aide told The Huffington Post.
House Republican leaders made similar remarks during the run-up to the Oct. 1 deadline to fund the government, only to reverse course under pressure from conservatives in the party, so it's worth taking this statement with a grain of salt. But there have been signals that Republicans have come to believe it's better to let the Affordable Care Act encounter its own struggles than to be seen as demanding its destruction.
The talking points that House Republicans prepared for the Thanksgiving break included a conspicuously bolded line: "Republicans are still committed to full repeal." But that section was overshadowed by various suggestions of ways lawmakers could attack Obamacare and highlight its shortcomings instead.
A Democratic Senate aide familiar with current budget talks, meanwhile, said there is little evidence that Republicans plan to demand health care reform repeal as part of a final agreement. Those talks, which are geared toward funding the government once the current spending bill runs out in mid-January, have mainly focused on how to replace the spending cuts brought about by sequestration.
What this ultimately means for the repeal movement depends on whom you ask. Critics of the law insist that legislative fixes should still be considered, including bills that would give those who have had their insurance policies canceled under Obamacare the right to keep them. Those same critics also say that should Republicans regain control of the Senate in 2014 and retain control of the House, it will provide momentum behind efforts to undo the law.
But by that point, millions of individuals will likely have bought insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Republicans would therefore be more likely to tinker with the law -- while maintaining coverage for those who had purchased it, many for the first time -- than push for its complete repeal.
"I think the hopelessness of the repeal campaign — the absence of a viable legislative vehicle, the turning tide of Healthcare.gov, the initiation of insurance benefits — is becoming clear to elected Republicans, and its dying embers will be fully extinguished by early next year," Salon's Brian Beutler wrote on Monday morning.