House Republicans need something to do. (They certainly won't act on Representative Dave Camp's tax reform plan. That's dangerous!) So instead they will return to an old standby next week: repealing Obamacare. Or, in this case, voting (again) to delay the individual mandate for a year.
Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner calls the mandate "one of the most unpopular provisions in the health care law." As it was being passed, when it was still an abstract law that would be implemented at some point in the future, I suppose that was true; people don't like being told what to do. But now that we're talking reality, are there really large groups who don't want health insurance, and feel oppressed at being forced to have it (or pay a tax), and will vote accordingly? I don't believe it. As far as I can tell, this is pure feedback-loop stuff. No one outside of the conservative information system is upset about the individual mandate. And I suspect that even within that information loop, people are only worked up about the principle of being able to choose not to have insurance, not an actual desire to have no insurance.
I certainly don't mean to suggest that no one is upset about the Affordable Care Act. Plenty of people are. Sometimes they are angry about things that really are effects of ACA; sometimes they are talking about things that may not have been caused by the reform. The latter is important: When there's a system-wide change, people are going to blame that change for everything they don't like about the system. Fair or not, that's how it's going to be (and this is a complicated question, because even if a problem wasn't a consequence of Obamacare, it still could be a result of a preventable limitation in the legislation).
Which gets to Greg Sargent's interesting comments about the future of Obamacare" as an issue. He argues that we're already beginning to see it fade and Republicans are accommodating themselves to the reality that repeal is unrealistic.
There's some truth to that assessment. On the other hand, whatever the merits of the law, Obamacare may work to fire up partisan Republicans for some time (even as it disappears as an issue for everyone else), and there will always be something going wrong with health care for which it can be blamed.
What's important to remember is that Obamacare may fade, and health care will become a normal issue again. And we really don't know how that will work out.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.
(Jonathan Bernstein covers U.S. politics for Bloomberg View. He is co-editor of "The Making of the Presidential Candidates 2012." Follow him onTwitter at @JBPlainblog.)
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