Could Rebranding End the Budget Impasse? For "Republicare"

By Mike Dorf

With the government shutting down and the fear of a default looming as we approach the debt ceiling deadline in two weeks, it's time to start getting nervous for real.  I continue to think that the easiest solution to the impasse would be for Speaker Boehner to abandon the Hastert Rule and bring a clean Continuing Resolution and a clean debt ceiling increase to the House floor for a vote, but lately he has shown no apparent interest in doing so.  Is there a Plan B?

The latest dispatch from the Tea Party front is dispiriting.  The most conservative members of the Republican caucus view the Affordable Care Act in essentially religious terms. They believe the law is evil, quite apart from anything that the law contains.  Pointing out that these very lawmakers or their constituents actually favor much of what the ACA does seems pointless, because they know well that the Devil can quote Scripture.  So are we doomed?

Perhaps, but I have a possible way out of the mess.  Republicans said the same sorts of things about Social Security and Medicare that they're now saying about the ACA.  But once those programs became politically sacrosanct, that fact didn't stop them from portraying themselves (however disingenuously) as the defenders of these programs against particular Democratic proposals to change them.  Why not do the same with the ACA?  Stop calling it Obamacare and start calling it "Republicare".

Such a move would be easier than one might think.  After all, Social Security and Medicare really are government transfer programs.  By contrast, the ACA is a set of relatively modest subsidies and rules designed to build and reinforce the market-based provision of health insurance.  The idea of using tax incentives to increase the pool of healthy people buying private insurance was first made popular by conservative economists who saw it as a free market alternative to what was then being demonized as Hillarycare.  And Mitt Romney was for it before he was against it. So despite the ideological fervor with which Tea Partiers denounce Obamacare, there is really nothing about the ACA that conflicts with their core values.  Asking them to embrace the ACA is not like asking them to embrace abortion rights or gun control.

So how about it GOP?  Instead of committing political suicide and taking down the global economy with you, why not declare victory?  Just take credit for the ACA and we can fight about something we actually disagree about.