Every Day Is Groundhog Day for the GOP's Obamacare Replacement

The House Rules Committee will meet on Feb. 2 to discuss a Republican bill to repeal and eventually replace the health care law.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) answers questons at a press conference following a meeting of the House Republican caucus at the U.S Capitol on January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Boehner and other members of the Republican congressional leadership are scheduled to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House later today.

Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

In a moment of irony not lost on observers, the GOP-led House Rules Committee will spend Groundhog Day considering the 114th Congress’s first destined-to-be-vetoed attempt to repeal Obamacare. Adding to the déjà vu is the fact that, despite promises to replace the health care law, Republicans still don’t have a firm plan. 

The latest repeal bill, sponsored by Rep. Bradley Byrne, an Alabama Republican, doesn’t propose a replacement, but mandates that relevant committees “report to the House of Representatives legislation proposing changes to existing law.” Those proposals, in the language of the bill, should meet 12 provisions, all of which either rehash generic Republican priorities (“foster economic growth and private sector job creation by eliminating job-killing policies and regulations”) or repeat old conservative health care proposals, like medical liability reform.

Further to Byrne's bill, Reps. Paul Ryan, Fred Upton, and John Kline are expected to lead a task force to create an alternative. “House Republicans’ most serious attempt thus far to develop their health care reform package,” Politico reported Friday.

Early last year, Republicans devoted considerable time to hyping up possible replacements. There was the proposal from Senators Tom Coburn and Orrin Hatch last January; then a March measure from the House Republicans, which The Washington Post described as a  “conservative approach to fixing the nation’s health-care system"; and, a few weeks later, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Bobbycare.

And then in April 2014, Rep. Ryan released a budget for 2015 that repealed the law without endorsing any kind of replacement. When asked about his party's plans, Ryan told The Washington Examiner that “we have lots of ideas of how to offer patient-centered health care... So you’ll see a lot of different comprehensive Republican alternative plans.”

Those alternatives never really solidified. The problem in 2014 was that Republicans couldn’t agree on one, or even on whether it was politically worthwhile to push an alternative that might distract from the Democrats' Obamacare woes. The problem now is that the Supreme Court might completely gut the health care law in June by ruling that the three dozen states issuing Obamacare subsidies through federal exchanges are acting unlawfully.

Republicans have said that they want to be ready when the court decides—but they don’t seem to have a plan for that scenario. Then again, the Obama administration might not have a plan themselves. 

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