Republican candidates have begun to retreat in recent weeks from their all-out assault on the Affordable Care Act in favor of a more piecemeal approach, suggesting they would preserve some aspects of the law while jettisoning others.
The changing tactics signal that the health-care law — while still unpopular with voters overall — may no longer be the lone rallying cry for Republicans seeking to defeat Democrats in this year’s midterm elections.
The moves also come as senior House Republicans have decided to postpone a floor vote on their own health-reform proposal — making it less likely that a GOP alternative will be on offer before the November elections, according to lawmakers familiar with the deliberations. The delay will give them more time to work on the bill and weigh the consequences of putting a detailed policy before the voters in the fall, lawmakers said.
On the campaign trail, some Republicans and their outside allies have started talking about the health-care law in more nuanced terms than they have in the past.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is running ads suggesting that many of its favored candidates will tweak Obamacare rather than scrap it. One spot says Rep. Joseph J. Heck (R-Nev.) will fix the law, while another says Republican Massachusetts House contender Richard Tisei will “work in a bipartisan manner to fix healthcare the right way.”
The business group’s ads in Kentucky use almost identical language, declaring in separate spots that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) and Rep. Andy Barr (R) would work to “fix” the “Obamacare mess.”
In Oregon, GOP Senate candidate and pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehbybacks the ban on discriminating against consumers on the basis of preexisting conditions and the provision allowing parents to keep their children on their plans up until age 26, according to spokesman Charlie Pearce. While she opposes other aspects of the law and would like to replace it, Pearce said, she does not see that as realistic while “the president’s in office.”
Some Republicans are grappling with how to characterize their views. Former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, who is running for a Senate seat in New Hampshire, continues to campaign against it. But Brown also acknowledges keeping his 23-year old daughter on his insurance plan— which would not be offered without the health-care law — and has declined to say whether he would endorse expansion of the Medicaid program in the state.