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The Tea Party Boxes Boehner In, Again | The Nation

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George Zornick

George Zornick

Action and dysfunction in the Beltway swamp. E-mail tips to george@thenation.com

The Tea Party Boxes Boehner In, Again

House Speaker John Boehner set the conservative blogosphere afire yesterday, when Politico’s Jake Sherman reported that the House GOP leadership would seek to reimplement popular parts of healthcare reform should the Supreme Court strike the entire law down next month. The pushback—and immediate retraction from Boehner—illustrates once again that the far right has the GOP leadership on a very short leash.

According to the story, Boehner briefed his colleagues on a contingency plan to reinstate both the requirement that keeps young Americans on their health insurance plans until age 26, and the laws that forbid insurers from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions. He believes that it’s “too politically risky” to rip those provisions from the law.

Boehner is quite right, but this sounds like fingernails on sheet metal to the Tea Party, which has spent the last two years fulminating about the socialistic, dictatorial, no-good, very-bad Obamacare. And the reaction from the hard right was swift.

“If this is true I have had it. I’m calling out John Boehner right now,” said powerful radio talker Mark Levin last night. “Look how fast they fold like a cheap tent.”

Daniel Horowitz at the popular blog RedState groused: “I’ve long struggled with the question of whether Republicans lack a full understanding of the free market or whether they simply lack the communication skills and fortitude to articulate free market positions to the public.”

“GOP thinking about keeping parts of ObamaCare, if you can believe it. No, no, a thousand times no,” tweeted Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association.

Within hours, GOP aides were e-mailing conservative pundits, assuring them that “Jake Sherman & Politico are liars.” And today, Boehner’s office sent out an e-mail blast titled “Anything Short of Full ObamaCare Repeal is Unacceptable.” Boehner was quoted as saying that “the president’s healthcare law is making things worse” and that “the only way to change this is by repealing ObamaCare in its entirety.… Anything short of that is unacceptable.”

But if that repeal were to happen, does Boehner still favor legislation to protect people with pre-existing conditions? He doesn’t say. Notably, even conservative stalwarts like Senator Jim DeMint and Representative Tom Price favor that. (DeMint would like to see state pools for those with pre-existing conditions, while Price has said he wants stop-gap legislation protecting those provisions should Obamacare disappear).

If Boehner does indeed want to create such legislation, does the far right object to that on principle, now that Obama has created such laws? Because Boehner is absolutely right, it’s politically dangerous to gut that, along with provisions for Americans under 26. (What if the law is repealed, does everyone age 22 to 26 suddenly lose coverage?) The GOP leadership gets that, but the opinion-makers and Tea Party firebrands don’t—and it’s clear who holds more power.

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