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Uberti: GOP obstruction on Obamacare only hurts Americans

Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks during

Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks during a weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, (June 27, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Capitol Hill’s “repeal and replace” crowd gloated over the White House’s decision Tuesday to put a one-year hold on Obamacare’s controversial employer mandate.

The Obama administration “seems to slowly be admitting what Americans already know,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

“Even the Obama administration knows the ‘train wreck’ will only get worse,” said House Speaker John Boehner, a fellow Republican.

The GOP has every reason to celebrate a blow to the law many of its members and many Americans despise. The House’s 37 votes to repeal Obamacare — for reasons as shallow as filling out freshmen Republicans’ voting resumes — proves as much.
But such chest-beating over the law’s supposed demise is disingenuous, as the GOP has done everything possible the past three years to torpedo it, regardless of the human expense.

Amendments to the mandate -- which requires firms with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health coverage -- will be hard-pressed to pass the Republican-led House. It’s a relatively small part of the health law, affecting about 0.2 percent of U.S. businesses, the White House estimates. But while a number of legislative fixes exist, the GOP would rather let a bit of bad policy do as much harm as possible.

It falls in line with the party’s nationwide response to the law. Twenty-five Republican-led states rejected setting up state insurance exchanges, putting the onus on the federal government to construct statewide marketplaces -- a tall task.

At least 21 states have also opted out of expanded Medicaid coverage, leaving more than 3.6 million low-income citizens in the ranks of the uninsured, according to a study published last month by Rand Corp. researchers.

Nevertheless, both moves are red meat for national campaign donors and the GOP’s rank and file.

Few believe that implementing the Affordable Care Act will be a smooth ride. Indeed, Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat and one of the law’s authors, coined the “train wreck” label that Republicans now trumpet on Capitol Hill.

But those cheering the delay of the employer mandate and urging Obamacare’s full repeal overlook political reality. Barring strong majorities in Congress and a GOP-controlled White House, the health law is here to stay for the foreseeable future. And by 2017 — the earliest all those stars could align — many Obamacare provisions will already be in effect, making a full rollback even more difficult.

Needless to say, it will be a key issue in the 2014 midterm elections. And Republicans will surely benefit electorally by standing pat as aspects of the law flounder, affecting the health care of thousands, if not millions.

That might be good politics, but it’s bad policy-making.