Opinion Columns & Blogs

Carl P. Leubsdorf: Huelskamp, GOP won’t block Obamacare

Imagine how great the national outcry would have been if, when the House extended the military draft in August 1941, members on the losing side told their constituents they would not help them get information on how to register.

That’s akin to what some House Republicans are doing in their latest efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, even while some Senate GOP colleagues talk of trying to shut down the federal government to stop its implementation.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, said he’d tell constituents seeking health insurance information to call the Department of Health and Human Services. “Given that we come from Kansas, it’s much easier to say, ‘Call your former governor,’” Huelskamp told the Hill in June, referring to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “You say, ‘She’s the one. She’s responsible. She was your governor, elected twice, and now you re-elected the president, but he picked her.’”

“We know how to forward a phone call,” added Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

These tactics and repeated House votes to “prevent” implementation of the program look more foolish than serious. But GOP House members are not the only ones using various legal, though questionable, tactics in an effort to get President Obama’s landmark health law to fail.

Some Senate Republicans talk of refusing to fund the federal government unless Obama deletes all funds for Obamacare.

And many Republican governors have rejected cooperating with the federal government to expand Medicaid and set up the health-insurance exchanges. Ironically, their refusal would raise ACA’s costs and increase the role of a federal government whose power they constantly decry.

To be sure, the program will almost certainly face the kinds of glitches that Obama has conceded often mark the onset of complex federal programs. Unfortunately, the GOP’s attitude means the administration won’t be able to pass any legislation to fix any procedural glitches.

And it’s also true that the way the administration has sought to delay some parts of the law from meeting the Oct. 1 deadline is a tacit acknowledgment that it won’t be as ready to function as smoothly from the outset as officials would like us to believe.

Nevertheless, the time is long past for the GOP to recognize reality: When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ACA’s legality, Mitt Romney was defeated and Democrats retained the Senate, Republicans lost their last serious chance to prevent Obama’s health care law from taking effect.

As time goes on, the political focus is likely to change from whether the GOP can block it from taking effect to whether it can take away its most popular benefits.

Over the longer term, what longtime Congress watcher Norm Ornstein called the GOP’s “monomaniacal focus on sabotaging” Obamacare may well backfire from other factors, notably the growing evidence it may benefit people more in states that cooperate with the administration than in those that oppose it.

None of this prevented the recent move by the Senate’s two top Republicans to pressure the National Football League not to publicize the program, which would help attract younger Americans whose participation is essential to help finance it.

Such foolishness is unlikely to have any more long-term effect than those repeated House votes or the refusal of some House Republicans to tell constituents how to sign up. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.