Hey, it was worth a shot.

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Republican Chutzpah Won't Kill Obamacare

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Sometimes, you just have to stand in awe of the chutzpah.

In the Republican rebuttal to Barack Obama's State of the Union address last night, Joni Ernst said: “We'll also keep fighting to repeal and replace a health-care law that's hurt so many hard-working families” (emphasis added).

“Keep fighting” to “replace”?

Let’s review some evidence, please.

The House passed the Affordable Care Act in summer 2009; the Senate followed at the end of that year. It became law in March 2010, almost five years ago.

Throughout that period, the Republicans offered no alternative. A year later, they finally settled on a “repeal and replace” strategy. Five House committee chairmen went so far as to claim that “replacing this law is a policy and a moral imperative” and pledged a full process of holding hearings and developing legislation. It didn’t happen.

A year after that (we’re up to January 2012 now), they unrolled a new plan to hold hearings and draft legislation. Never happened.

That summer, with nothing done about it still, some Republicans talked up the idea that instead of one big “replace” bill, there should be a series of smaller bills. No, that didn’t happen, either.

In summer 2013, they announced a plan to unveil the repeal bill that fall. Nope.

One year ago? Eric Cantor, then the House majority leader, promised, “This year, we will rally around an alternative to Obamacare and pass it on the floor of the House.” That plan lasted about as long as Cantor did.

Which brings us to last night.

It isn't as if conservatives don't have legitimate ideas about health care. Philip Klein, the commentary editor of the Washington Examiner, has been pushing Republicans to adopt such plans for years and has a whole book out on the choices available. And they need some replacement, if they want to get rid of the ACA. Flat-out repeal was an option in 2011; now, with the exchanges running and long after insurance companies, hospitals and the rest of the health-care industry have adapted to all those regulations Republicans complain about, a simple return to the law as it was in 2009 would create chaos, something no one wants.

So who’s kidding whom? Republican politicians aren’t going to keep fighting -- or even begin  fighting -- for a replacement (Ezra Klein explains why). And we all know what "repeal and replace" will come to: nothing.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net