Reversing itself again, the Obama administration has dropped an end-of-life planning provision from new Medicare regulations. It’s difficult to make sense of what the Obama administration is thinking here. It should have been assumed that the administration’s decision to include end-of-life care planning in new Medicare regulations would revive the “death panel” charge, which already forced Democrats to drop a similar provision from an earlier version of the health care legislation. If the administration is so intent on addressing the end-of-life planning issue, they should have been prepared to stand by their decision on policy grounds. If they weren’t prepared to do that, it was completely puzzling to revive the issue. Raising the issue again provided fodder to conservatives, while backing down yet again is another example to liberals of an administration unwilling to fight Republicans. Either the administration didn’t anticipate this reaction, or there was a lack of communication within the administration. Whichever the case, the handling of this issue was inept.
The Republican-controlled House is poised to vote on a clean repeal of the national health care law. Policy debates aside (my views on the substance of the law are well documented), from a purely political perspective, passing a repeal bill in the House is a no-brainer for Republicans.
Democrats are making several familiar arguments to counter the repeal drive. Mostly, they are emphasizing the more popular provisions of the law and insisting that repeal will increase the deficit. Yet Democrats tried to make these arguments throughout the health care debate and the 2010 elections to no avail. People view the law as a whole rather than by its component parts and they’ve never bought Democrats’ deficit reduction claims, even when they cite the Congressional Budget Office. As a result, the law remains unpopular.
Democrats are also blasting Republicans for taking on health care rather than jobs at a time of high unemployment — an attempt to turn the tables on the GOP, which used that argument effectively against Democrats in 2010. Yet the reason why the jobs argument resonated when Republicans used it is that Democrats spent 13 months crafting a 2,000-page plus health care bill and maneuvering it through Congress. By contrast, House Republicans will pass a quick two-page repeal of the law, and then move on. Additionally, given that they control just one chamber of Congress rather than both chambers and the presidency, they are unlikely to be held as responsible for the condition of the economy as Democrats were in 2010. To put it another way, if House Republicans passed a bunch of economic bills and the economy took off, would Democrats allow them to take credit for a boom in the 2012 election?
In 2010, Republicans forged a coalition of conservative and independent voters, and if they’re to make further gains in the next election, they’ll have to avoid alienating either group. Passing a repeal of ObamaCare in the House — even one that won’t get through the Senate — is the bare minimum that would be expected of the new majority from conservatives, and the health care law remains unpopular among independents. It has the added bonus of forcing Democrats from conservative districts to cast tough votes. So the GOP has nothing to lose and everything to gain by passing a repeal bill.
Yesterday, President Obama told reporters that, “My hope is that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will realize that there will be plenty of time to campaign for 2012 in 2012.” Yet this morning the White House announced that press secretary Robert Gibbs would be leaving, and according to the New York Times account, “he will step down and become an outside political adviser to the president and his re-election campaign.”