The stars haven't lined up. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
The stars haven't lined up. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A Catch of the Day for Jonathan Chait, who has been tracking the always-not-quite-here “replace” part of the Republican “repeal and replace” health-care reform story. He notes that the latest cycle began with a straightforward promise in January that a replace bill would make it to the House floor this year. That was followed by a backtrack from working to “finalize” that bill to, now, gathering ideas for when they “may have an opportunity” to get to that replace bill. Chait explains the logic:

[T]he problem isn’t that Cantor and Boehner and Ryan would rather lay around on the sofa drinking beer and playing video games than write their health-care plan already. It’s that there’s no plan out there that is both ideologically acceptable to conservatives and politically defensible … Republicans can exploit the disruption of the transition to Obamacare unencumbered by the reality that their own plans are even more disruptive. Now, for this method to work, you need to pretend to have a plan of your own somewhere.

Granted: “repeal and replace” doesn’t exactly poll well. But it does poll better than just plain repeal.

Chait mentions that this has been going on for years, but he doesn’t refer to the granddaddy of all “repeal and replace” claims: the op-ed written in early 2010 by House Republican committee chairmen promising not just a bill, but a whole process. They were going to hold hearings, draft a bill and bring it to the House floor. I haven’t checked recently, but last I looked the story was that they hadn’t even bothered with the hearings part. As Chait says, there’s just nothing there.

Want to know what an actual, serious attempt at doing policy looks like? One of those House Republican chairmen, Dave Camp of Ways and Means, offered a tax reform proposal today. It follows up on, yes, a round of hearings. Real ones. Now, I don’t think it’s likely that Camp’s proposal is going to get very far in this Congress, but by all accounts it’s a real, honest attempt at policy making.

I wouldn’t hold my breath for something similar in health care. No matter how many times Republicans claim its coming.

Oh, and: nice catch!

To contact the writer of this article: Jbernstein62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net.