President Obama’s recent decision to delay one piece of his ACA -the requirement that some businesses provide health insurance for their employees – provides a reprieve for some employers, a possible setback for the Law’s proponents and a temporary political victory for others. However, the lesson the GOP should learn from this decision is quite simple – stop symbolic votes to repeal the entire Law and take it piece by piece. To paraphrase a baseball term, play small ball. Here is how it could be done:
First, find aspects of the law that voters find most offensive and write serial, succinct, and easy to understand one-issue bills that Congressional members can explain in 10-second sound bytes so that they make the news. This certainly beats being mocked weekly on the Sunday talk shows for spending precious Congressional time on political stunts. Certainly, one or two repeal votes should be enough to make a point.
Second, hold hearings/floor debates on each bill which gives ACA opponents at least an opportunity to present an argument. This forces opponents to be on record for opposing what might be politically popular changes to the widely unpopular Law. The opposition is then forced to defend its position instead of the other way around. Make them be the Party of “No”.
Third, the GOP should collect video clips from the hearings and floor debates for use in national ad campaigns particularly in swing districts to help brand opponents as out of touch with these voters who remain firmly against the Law. Then make sure these ads are available to Republican candidates during the 2014 election campaign.
Lastly, pass these bills one at a time and present them to the Senate where red and purple state Senators may have to answer questions about why they think the IRS should be trusted with personal health information or why the Executive branch should have veto power over the type of health care a voter receives. Doing so may make Mr. Reid’s intransigence the topic of Sunday talk shows instead of the GOP House’s unrelenting and inconsequential effort at total repeal.
The ACA remains a hotbed of contention nationwide. But the GOP leaves itself on the sideline for all practical purposes by not playing within the confines of its political power. Mr. Obama, unwittingly perhaps, has shown them a better way to get onto the field of play.