I guess I'm a little surprised by Karl Rove's op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal. The MO of House and Senate Republicans has been to block, block, block. Now the strategy seems to be: Engage in the details of health care reform to expose the flaws in "ObamaCare." That sounds like hard work! Maybe a united front against president hasn't paid off in public opinion, but it did have a kind of simple logic to it.
Here's how I understood -- and felt comfortable half-defending -- the Republicans' early strategy. Let's fast-forward to November 2010, when Americans will be deciding whether the country has improved and whom to credit for it. If the country is better, they'll likely credit the party that owns everything from the shrubs of the White House to the cafeteria trays of the Congress -- and the Democrats win. If the country is worse off in distinct ways that can be traced to the Democrats, the GOP has an opening. If a handful of GOPers negotiates with Obama on some bills, they'll get a Yea vote, but little credit. If the GOP refuses to cooperate, they'll at least stand to gain entirely if the country is in a rut.
That was a lot of ifs! But now Rove is ostensibly tired of the Republicans' opposition, and he praises the new health care plans emerging from Republican leadership. The Patients' Choice Act, from Sens. Coburn and Burr and Reps. Ryan and Nunes, is surprisingly multi-ideological. It kills the employer tax exclusion, gives fat refundable tax credits to citizens ($2300) and families ($5700 each), and it tips its hat to Democrats' by incentivizing insurance companies to accept riskier patients with pre-existing conditions. There are other plans too, Rove points out, from Sens. Kyl and Alexander, and also a bipartisan committee proposal that Jonathan Cohn has reviewed.
In other words,Republicans don't seem unified on health care at all. The Party of No has become a think tank. On the one hand, I'm happy to see the GOP passing around health care abstracts, but I'm pretty surprised that Karl Rove is so pleased about this development. If the only effective opposition is a unified opposition, then I can't imagine that a dizzying array of policy proposals -- Eliminate the employer tax exclusion! Focus on insurance exchanges! State marketplace! -- will make the comparison crystal clear for either today's public opinion responders or tomorrow's voters. If Republicans want to compete on this issue, they need to find one plan to compete on. Otherwise, the debate is Tangled Enough Already.