Republicans in Congress made a statement this week. They passed legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood for a year and overturn several large portions of Obamacare. Senate Majority Leader McConnell called it a “promise kept”, and while President Obama will surely slap it down with his veto pen, it at least serves as a symbol for Republicans as they look towards November 2016.
It’s a symbol of moderate hope – that Republicans are committed to alternatives to Obamacare, that they recognize the Planned Parenthood horrors of recent video exposés, that they will actually continue to push to fulfill their commitments despite some past failures. And it’s highly encouraging that they took these steps without shutting down the government again.
From a pragmatic standpoint, of course, this is an easy vote for most Republicans. Their base is highly pro-life and anti-Obamacare, and since this legislation will be vetoed, they won’t have to deal with any fallout from crippling Obamacare. Leading into next year’s elections, they can claim that they voted against Planned Parenthood and Obamacare, while Democrats and the President continued to support both. There is good fundraising material there.
The real test will come in 2017, if the Republicans are somehow successful in gaining the White House and keeping both houses of Congress. Given the very real prospect of overhauling healthcare and defunding Planned Parenthood, would they still do it? A hopeful Republican voter base is certainly counting on it.
Defunding Planned Parenthood is straightforward, but replacing Obamacare would be a massive task, and Republicans need to dig deep. There are good conservative options for improving our healthcare system in the U.S., but they are poorly defended in the public square, if mentioned at all. Republicans need a far more robust policy portfolio if they are to gain the White House and keep Congress.
Thankfully, new House Majority Leader Paul Ryan agrees. In his recent speech at the Library of Congress, he proclaimed:
“If we want to save the country, then we need a mandate from the people. And if we want a mandate, then we need to offer ideas. And if we want to offer ideas, then we need to actually have ideas.”