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Even Republicans now agree: The ACA’s future is ‘largely settled’

This is the first presidential election in more than a decade in which repealing the Affordable Care Act is a non-issue for the Republican Party.

By

At the most recent Republican presidential primary debate, Fox News’ Dana Perino asked former Vice President Mike Pence whether the Affordable Care Act was “here to stay.” He effectively ignored the question and responded to a different subject that was being discussed moments earlier.

So, the co-host followed up, again asking Pence, “Does that mean Obamacare is here to stay?” He still wouldn’t answer.

As we discussed soon after, the Hoosier had plenty of company: There were seven GOP candidates on the stage, and none of the seven called for repealing the Affordable Care Act.

It’s against this backdrop that The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the issue has “disappeared.”

This presidential election marks the first in more than a decade in which no GOP candidates are pledging to eviscerate the landmark Affordable Care Act, ending a standoff between the parties over whether the government is responsible for providing access to healthcare. When it comes to medical coverage, at least, the debate is largely settled: Americans want their government to help, rather than leaving it to insurers and market forces to try to provide the best coverage for the most people.

Republican leaders — on the presidential campaign trail, on Capitol Hill, etc. — could push back against this consensus. They apparently don’t see a political upside to doing so.

Joe Grogan, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council during Donald Trump’s term, told the Journal, “The goal of universal coverage, or for as many people as possible — that principle, there’s no going back from that. I don’t think anyone would propose a repeal plan anyway.”

Health care advocates probably shouldn’t rest too easy — House Speaker Mike Johnson has long been a fierce foe of the Affordable Care Act, and it’s likely he’ll try to chip away at the system incrementally — but those worried about another round of “repeal and replace” talk from GOP presidential candidates can safely put those fears aside.

Revisiting our earlier coverage, it’s not just the party’s White House hopefuls. Last year, Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida unveiled a controversial policy agenda that seemed to touched on practically every issue under the sun — but it didn’t say a word about repealing or replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Soon after, Sen. Ron Johnson briefly suggested that he wanted to put ACA repeal back on the table. When Democrats pounced, the Wisconsin Republican scrambled to walk it back.

As the 2022 midterm elections drew closer and House GOP leaders unveiled their “Commitment to America” blueprint, that plan ignored the Affordable Care Act as well. Around the same time, a variety of Republicans started editing their websites, erasing their previous criticisms of the ACA.

For those of us who’ve covered the political fight over the Affordable Care Act since its inception, this day seemed highly implausible. Before Barack Obama signed the reform package into law, Republicans condemned it as an economy-destroying attack on free enterprise and the American way of life. After the ACA became law, Republicans spent years not only denouncing the reforms, but also voting several dozen times to repeal it.

The idea that the GOP would simply wave the white flag and give up on attacking the reform law seemed like a fantasy.

And yet, here we are.

This post updates our related earlier coverage.

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