Are Republicans losing their nerve on repeal?

Posted on April 12, 2010

Almost immediately after Democrats rammed Obamacare through Congress, Republicans began promising to fight for its repeal. Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Steve King of Iowa introduced repeal legislation in the House and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and 15 co-sponsors followed suit with similar legislation in the Senate. House Minority Leader John Boehner declared: "This government takeover of health care is not what Americans asked for. . . .That is why Republicans are fighting to repeal it and start over with common-sense reforms." The Club for Growth launched a repeal pledge that has so far been signed by 67 lawmakers and 288 candidates. And the Weekly Standard ran a cover that screamed in bright red letters "REPEAL" and vowed the "Overthrow of Obamacare."

But today some Republicans are losing their nerve on repeal. Rep. Mark Kirk, who is running for the Senate in Illinois, signed the repeal pledge and even vowed to "lead the effort" for repeal, but has since backed off, declaring "I voted against it, but we lost." Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina , who is running for reelection, has said that "total repeal" is unlikely. And Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is in charge of messaging for the Republican Senate leadership, says that instead of repeal, Republicans should promise "at least big changes" to the bill.

Not exactly a resounding battle cry.

Why are Republicans starting to cave? Speaking in Iowa City, President Obama taunted Republicans about the drive to repeal, daring them to "go for it." Obama told a cheering audience: "If they want to have that fight, we can have it. Because I don't believe the American people are going to put the insurance industry back in the driver's seat." And the Democratic National Committee launched radio ads against Kirk and other Republicans, declaring they are "vowing to repeal reform and put the insurance industry back in charge of your health care." Obama and the Democrats are betting that, while the bill may be unpopular, they can win in November by focusing on specific provisions. They will tell voters Republicans are working with the insurance industry to bring back discrimination for preexisting conditions, let insurers cancel your coverage retroactively if you get sick and restore lifetime limits that deny you care when you need it most.

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