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Conservatives See Through "Repeal And Replace"

The Hill reports that conservatives in Congress are rebelling against the "repeal and replace" message on health care, preferring a straight repeal message:

In the days following the enactment of Obama’s sweeping healthcare reform measure, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed to pursue a “repeal and replace” strategy as lawmakers headed home for the Easter recess.

That has frustrated King and other conservatives.

“Sell the repeal idea. We can debate the replace idea. That’s what I would like to see our leadership do,” King said.

In a recent memo, Boehner listed eight items that the GOP conference would fight to repeal, but the Ohio lawmaker stopped short of calling for a full repeal.

Democrats desperately want Republicans to run on full repeal, so that they can force the party to defend the repeal of many popular provisions. "Repeal and replace" is an attempt to avoid this trap, placating the hard core base while letting Republicans in tough races position themselves as favoring the popular parts of reform while opposing only the unpopular elements.

Substantively, of course, this won't work -- pullout the unpopular parts, and the popular parts will come out with it. That's why the unpopular parts had to be included in the first place. Pretty soon, you're just tinkering around the margins. King seems to understand this:

King will not sign on to any legislation that would partially repeal the bill, in part because he believes it will divide Republicans.

“I didn’t want to confuse the message on repeal by adding the word ‘replace’ because there’s a question mark that hangs on ‘replace,’ which is, ‘What would you replace it with?’ and then the discussion gets drug down [sic] into something that all Republicans are not going to agree on,” King said.

This is right. Passing health care reform is very, very hard. That's why it hasn't happened until this year, and it's also why Republicans have never attempted it when they've held power. The notion of passing a Republican plan was a talking point designed to stop reform, not a serious possibility. If Republicans need to formulate their own alternative plan as a condition for repealing the Affordable Care Act, then repeal will never happen. Of course, I don't think it will happen anyway, but adding a "replace" condition makes it even more far-fetched.