Health Care Repeal Debate Back On

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It didn't take long for the debate to be rescheduled. Members of Congress were expected to begin debate this week over a repeal of Obama's health care reform law. In response to last weekend's shooting in Arizona, the discussion was postponed, but House Republicans confirmed today that the show will go on next week.

Many Congress members are particularly passionate about health care reform. Some Democrats have pushed to hold out on igniting the potentially heated debate until even later, as Saturday's violence has prompted a call for more civil political discourse. Though no official changes have been made to the bill's current controversial title, "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act," Greg Sargent reports that Democrats will begin referring to the bill as "The Patient's Rights Repeal Act." This is presumably to "emphasize what the repeal would take away from you--and to position the plight of the patient in the center of this battle."

Commentators contemplate the debate through the lens of Congress's new-found "civility" and offer advice for how the debate should be carried out.

  • Does the Health Care Law Really 'Kill' Jobs? As politicians attempt to refrain from using aggressive rhetoric, some question whether “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act” is too violent a title for what the Republicans are trying to accomplish. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein agrees that the name of the bill should be changed, but clarifies, “my problem with the modifier ‘job-killing’ isn’t that it’s uncivil, though perhaps it is. It’s that it’s untrue.” Klein explains that the name comes from a misinterpreted Congressional Budget Office Report that says the law will cause a reduction in labor, meaning, “it’s not that employers will fire workers. it’s that potential workers--particularly older ones--will retire somewhat earlier.” This is not a bad thing, argues Klein. “This is true for anything that increases financial resources. One effect of tax cuts, for instance, is that people work less because their incomei smroe adequate to their needs. When you make people richer, they find they have more choices. That’s a good thing.”
  • Same Message, Different Words Politico’s Jake Sherman takes note of Congressional Republicans’ new tone in pushing its agenda since the Arizona shooting. But don’t be fooled, warns Sherman, “Republicans are not changing a lick of substance. They’re just talking about it differently.” But perhaps “talking about it differently” will be just the tactic for a successful debate. Sherman notes:
But while Republicans aren’t backing down on their substantive agenda, GOP leaders are making clear to their members that their rhetoric is under a microscope--and they plan to reinforce that message this week at their retreat.
Committee chairs have been told to alert their members that the debate should center around substance, leaving out some of the heated rhetoric that has colored the debate in the past months.
  • Slow Your Roll, Republicans  In an op-ed contribution to The New York Times, National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru explains that, though he believes reforming programs such as Medicare and Social Security “is vital to our nation’s long-term fiscal health,” these reforms should not be first on the new Republican Congress’s agenda. “Reform is impossible this year or next unless President Obama takes the lead on it,” he writes. “What’s more, Republicans have no mandate for reform, and a failed attempt will only set back the cause.” Ponnuru offers some advice to the new majority:
They should do more than wait: in the event of presidential inaction, reformers should blame Mr. Obama for the lack of progress and work to make entitlements a litmus-test issue in the Republican presidential primaries. The goal should be to nominate someone willing to make a strong case for reducing entitlement growth as part of a larger strategy to restore American prosperity.
  • Go for the Repeal, But Have a Back-Up Plan  At the American Spectator Joseph Lawler points out that “even futile attempts to introduce legislation advance the cause of entitlement reform, because doing so highlights the issues the country is facing for the public and because whoever first proposes reform sets the baseline expectations for what can be done.” However, Lawler does agree that a replacement plan is necessary for successful repeal. “Passing repeal without submitting an alternative proposal would look destructive,” he writes.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.