Is the Effort to Repeal Obamacare Finally Dead?

Or is it just waiting for the right time to reappear?
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Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

If the repeal-Obamacare movement is dead, as Salon's Brian Beutler argues today, no one told conservative columnist Erick Erickson, who writes today at RedState (emphasis added):

Conservatives need to keep their focus on the law overall. The website is a reflection of a terrible law. The law is causing millions to lose insurance, millions more to pay more for insurance, and the best the Democrats can do is claim it’d work well if the GOP didn’t think nasty thoughts about it.

As we all get back to business today, we must remember the law itself is the problem — not the website. The website they can fix. We must deny them the opportunity to fix the law itself. Let the American people see big government in all its glory. Then offer a repeal.

One rarely sees so bald a statement of the strategic calculations involved.

And while House Republicans currently have no plans to revive repeal efforts during end-of-year budget negotiations, the Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports, the formal GOP position remains advocacy for repeal.

The question for the GOP is how long members can wait before trying again, if they are ever to do so. As of January 1, hundreds of thousands of people will be newly enrolled in public and private health plans thanks to Obamacare. At that point, repeal advocates will find themselves in the unenviable position of seeking to yank insurance from these newly insured without making any viable coverage alternative available to them.

The deeper we get into 2014, the higher the risks for the GOP in a new major repeal effort, because the more people will squeal if there's a threat to their new insurance.

And yet there's something to be said for playing the long game. There are many more parts of the federally run exchange package that have yet to come fully online—from the Spanish-language site to the back-end system for transferring subsidies to consumers—and whatever lift the program gets when it finally becomes more tangible could be undone if there are major new snafus.

The most likely outcome, given the fierce opposition to the law over the past three years, is that Obamacare merely gets added to the permanent Republican complaint list, where it will join Social Security and Medicare as something that's subject to periodic GOP efforts at radical transformation. Just because a program is decades old, successful, and well-loved by voters doesn't mean it can't or won't be opposed by Republican reformers. And right now Obamacare is not yet any of those three things.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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