Eight Ways Republicans Tried (And Failed) To Stop Obamacare


With the dust settled after the 2013 government shutdown, Obamacare — the law that catalyzed the drama of recent weeks, as Republican sought to stop it — remains entirely untouched.

The shutdown and threat of default did not stop the rollout of Obamacare on Oct. 1. And though the GOP sought to slay the Obamacare dragon with a whole host of weapons, the only concession that they won is a meaningless one. The Obama administration will have to verify the income of people who receive financial help to buy insurance through the law.

They were supposed to do that, anyway, though the administration had scaled back the scope this summer. Even conservative wonks like the Washington Examiner’s Phillip Klein acknowledged that what was included in Wednesday’s deal was a “watered-down” provision.

But for posterity’s sake, let’s remember the numerous ways that Republicans aimed to kill the law they loathe so deeply. It should be noted that some of these ploys were combined together in the GOP’s various proposals.


House conservatives started with the ultimate goal: Defunding Obamacare in its entirety. It was an effective repeal, stopping the law for good.


Republicans then moved to a (slightly) more modest goal: Delay the whole law for a year. As a carrot to social conservatives, they also included a ‘conscience clause,’ which would have allowed employers to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage to workers.


After they couldn’t delay the whole law, they took aim at its most-hated provision: the requirement that every American purchase health insurance. Delay it for a year, they said. They repeatedly referenced the White House’s delay of Obamacare’s employer mandate as their justification.


A popular Republican target during the struggle was the ACA’s medical device tax, a 2.3 percent excise tax on those sales. No matter that it would have added about $30 billion to the deficit. They portrayed it as a tax on “pacemakers and children’s hearing aids” in their talking points. A little later, they then tried for a two-year delay of the tax.


A Republican poison pill added to the Obamacare law when it was passed requires Congress members, administration officials and their staffs to purchase health coverage through the law’s insurance marketplaces — rather than continuing to have employer-based coverage. The Obama administration ruled, though, that they could still use their employer subsidies from the federal government to pay for it.

Citing “fairness,” Republicans sought to stop that ruling. Members and their employees would have been required to pay the full price for insurance, without the federal help they received in the past.


One of the problems with the full Vitter plan is that it would hit lowly employees particularly hard. So at one point, the House GOP proposed instead to eliminate the federal employer subsidies for members and top-level administration officials, including President Obama, only.


After the government actually shut down, the House started passing bills to fund the popular pieces of the federal government — national parks, veterans benefits and so on. The not-so-subtle intent, as articulated by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and others, was to fund every part of the government except for the ACA.


Here’s the small victory that conservatives won. In short, the Obama administration is mandated to verify the income of people who receive Obamacare subsidies.

But as the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff explains, it isn’t much of a victory at all.

There’s nothing about the income verification measures that passed Wednesday night that will change Obamacare, aside from a few staff members at Health and Human Services devoting some hours to gathering the data and writing up these reports. And that probably explains why Democrats were okay with passing this language in the first place.