Target: ObamaCare

Voters rejected it. Now Republicans must act.

Commentary by Pete du Pont

Source: Wall Street Journal

For two years Washington has been moving left-bigger spending, expanding regulation and a continual increase in government debt. In fiscal 2007, when George W. Bush was president, the debt increased $161 billion; in 2008, another $458 billion; and in 2009 (which began under Mr. Bush and ended under Barack Obama), it reached $1.4 trillion. In Mr. Obama's first two full years in office, 2010 and 2011, it will increase another $1.3 trillion each year.

Add it all together and Mr. Obama has presided over the creation of more new debt in two years than Mr. Bush did in eight. Most important, these spending increases are not a surprise, a mistake or a worry in the current administration; they simply reflect the belief of the Democratic president and Congress that we must Europeanize America-make the government larger, broader, and in charge of as many things as possible.

But with the broad Republican victory in last November's elections, things have dramatically changed.

The health-care law enacted by the last Congress is enormous-more than 2,000 pages-and full of provisions that will expand government control of health care and limit what individuals and employers can do. The bill contains 10 years of higher taxes-on earned and investment income beginning in 2013-to fund only six years of subsidies. It double-counts $398 billion of Medicare savings and adds 32 million more people to government health-care coverage, while claiming implausibly to reduce the federal deficit at the same time. No wonder the latest Rasmussen polls show that 75% of likely voters want to change the health care law and only 18% want to keep it as it is.

Earlier this month New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote of ObamaCare that "what's striking now is how vulnerable it looks." He noted the unexpected reactions to the legislation. Its projections are false: The Medicare actuary says 375,000 people "should have already signed up for the new high risk pools for the uninsured, but only 8,000 have." In the state of New Hampshire the government has spent "nearly double the $650,000 that the federal government allotted to help run the program," and yet only about 80 members have signed up for the program. In a recent survey by the Physicians Foundation, "60 percent of private practice doctors say the law will force them to close their practices" or restrict them to certain patients. So Mr. Brooks concludes that "people will blame the Obama law for everything they hate about the health care system," and that there is a strong likelihood that "the current health care law will face an existential threat over the next five years."

Two efforts are under way to repeal or substantially revise ObamaCare. The first is the lawsuits, joined so far by 28 states, to declare the law unconstitutional. The states object to the federal takeover of health care and the mandate for states to cover the cost of adding 18 million Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

Second, congressional efforts began last week with a the 245-189 House vote to repeal ObamaCare, in which three Democrats joined all 242 Republicans. The bill now goes on to the Senate, where the Democrats still hold a majority so that there is virtually no chance of passage. Next will come a more detailed plan. The House will begin to pass and send along specific bills repealing or denying funding for specific provisions of ObamaCare. Targets may include the tax increases, some of the health regulations on businesses, and the very unpopular individual mandate, which a federal judge in Virginia has already held unconstitutional because it "exceeds the constitutional boundaries of Congressional power." The courts will have more to say in the months ahead.

While these efforts will go on for some time, in the end the Senate, House, and White House will have to come together and agree on some health-care changes. That was an important thing the November election was about-fixing a poorly drawn health care bill-and since the presidential election comes next, some agreement will need to be reached before the 2012 campaign begins.

The past election showed a strongly different perspective between liberal intellectuals and Obama administration supporters on the one hand, and tea-party activists and smaller-government people on the other. Since the latter group won the election, the former now calls for bipartisanship. For the past two years, with the Democrats in power, there was no bipartisanship at all, especially on the health care bill. Now the election winners have their turn to wage a vital public-policy battle.

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