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After November's Elections, How Far Will Republicans Go to Repeal Health Reform?

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This post originally appeared on Hullabaloo.

From the "who could have ever predicted" file:

If you thought passing the health care overhaul was messy, wait until Republicans try to repeal it if they regain power this fall.

It could come down to who blinks first, with some Republicans raising the prospect of a government shutdown.

Even if Republicans succeed beyond any current predictions and capture both the Senate and the House, they wouldn't have enough GOP votes to overcome President Barack Obama's veto.

But Republicans could still fall back on the congressional power of the purse, denying the administration billions of dollars to carry out the most far-reaching social legislation since Medicare and Medicaid.

"The endgame is a fight over funding," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

During the health care debate, raising this point was cause for major slap downs from the Very Serious People who repeatedly assured me that once the legislation was passed they would never even try to repeal it because people would be so upset. When it was pointed out that the benefits weren't going to kick in for years, leaving a huge gap between expectations and reality for quite some time, I recall being told that the Democrats would be able to run on the achievement of passing it in the fall of 2010 and ever after and would protect its legacy.

I wrote this back in December when the battle was raging:

There has been no public education about responsibility to buy insurance in all this or any strategy to manage expectations of what people will get with Health Care Reform. And because of that the right is going to have a field day telling everyone that the nanny state liberals are forcing them to give to money to insurance companies and then spending their tax money on poor (brown/black) people. So, again, running around saying "Mission Accomplished" is bad politics.

As for the promise to fix all the problems once the bill is in place, I think people are vastly underestimating the forces that are going to be brought to bear to prevent that from happening. Republicans aren't so disorganized that they forgot that they must stop Democrats from giving people reason to believe in government. In addition to deploying their formidable communications apparatus to present health care reform as a massive failure to the majority who are currently covered by employers and will only see the effects from afar, they are going to strangle improvements in the cradle by any means necessary including leveraging their most valuable new voting demographic in the age of Obama --- the elderly. On top of that, we are entering an era of deficit fetishism and have an industry that has shown it will do everything in its power to protect its interests.

It's not impossible, but watching the Democrats operate at the zenith of their institutional power over the past year does not give me any confidence that they want to, much less can, battle all that back.

They said that we just needed to pass this so we could get something better down the road. Perhaps that's true. But for the foreseeable future it's going to a fight just to keep the fairly crappy plan as it is, and I frankly have very little faith that' they'll be able to do it. I certainly hope they do.

I assume that President Obama will veto repeal measures, and I would certainly assume that there will be enough Democrats left in congress to prevent an override. Funding will be an ongoing problem because of the way the program is designed, so I don't know if Obama can maintain the levels needed to gain support and if a Republican takes office with a GOP congress, we can forget that altogether. I still think, as I thought then, that this sanguine attitude about the future of this health care bill was extremely short sighted.

Just now I saw Jonathan Alter on Ed Shultz's show impatiently defending Rahm Emmanuel from Adam Green's criticism by saying he had pushed through "the most important social legislation in 30 years." He explained that he'd told Alter that Democrats had tried it the "progressive" way for 50 years and failed and that you had to invite in all the special interests in order to get it done. (And apparently he was just spitting fire when Holy Joe backed out of the medicare expansion. Sure he was.)

I assume that he's going to to be long out of the White House when the Republicans starve it of funding and repeal all the affordability measures. But don't worry, they'll keep in the provision that says insurers have to agree to provide policies for pre-existing conditions. It's just that they'll allow them to charge whatever they want for them. But the legislation did pass so it's not like Rahm won't always have his check mark in the "win" column. As far as the rest of us goes, the jury is still out.