The Republicans' failure on healthcare reform

My FT column this week takes the Republicans to task for failing to play a more constructive role--or indeed any role to speak of--in the healthcare debate.

One striking aspect of the story is the role played by the Republican party - namely, no role at all.

In Congress, effective opposition to the administration has come from moderate and conservative Democrats, members of the so-called Blue Dog coalition. The independent Congressional Budget Office has also harmed the legislation's prospects by undermining the administration's claims about costs. The Democratic plans, says the CBO in its tiresomely honest way, would "bend the curve" in the wrong direction. That verdict has sunk in with the public.

But what do the Republicans think about this pivotal issue? Hard to say. How peculiar that is. The Democrats' disarray on health reform was an opportunity for the party to recover from its drubbing in the 2008 elections. Political strategy aside, it was also in the public interest that the Republicans should do their job as a functioning opposition - by offering an intelligent critique of what the Democrats were proposing and a workable policy of their own.

With Democrats all over the place on the issue, the Republicans either needed to argue that the system was not broken and did not need fixing, or else come up with a plan of their own. They have so far done neither.