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The audacious honesty of former House speaker John Boehner

Former House speaker John Boehner has some thoughts about Obamacare. Here they are: "[Congressional Republicans are] going to fix Obamacare - I shouldn't call it repeal-and-replace, because it's not going to happen," Boehner told a health-care co...

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Former House Speaker John Boehner at the Skybridge Alternatives (SALT) conference in Las Vegas on May 12, 2016. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by David Paul Morris.

 

Former House speaker John Boehner has some thoughts about Obamacare. Here they are:

"[Congressional Republicans are] going to fix Obamacare - I shouldn't call it repeal-and-replace, because it's not going to happen," Boehner told a health-care conference in Florida, according to Politico. Boehner dismissed the whole idea as "happy talk," adding: "I started laughing. Republicans never ever agree on health care."

Boehner isn't the only voice within the GOP expressing doubts about the party's ability to get rid of Obamacare root and branch. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has said she supports Medicaid expansion to her state and wouldn't vote to end access to Planned Parenthood. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, at a contentious town hall in Little Rock on Wednesday night, acknowledged that the Affordable Care Act "has helped Arkansans."

What differentiates Boehner from the rest is how frank he is about it all. He knows that it scores political points for Republicans to tout how they are going to get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something else. Obamacare is the symbol for most Republicans of everything they hated about President Barack Obama's eight years in the White House: The growth of the government coupled with the belief that the government should be in charge of virtually everything in peoples' lives.

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But, Boehner also knows from hard-won experience that saying you are going to do something in the context of a political campaign and actually doing it in office are two very different things. Time and time again during his time as speaker, especially in his final year in the job, Boehner saw his agenda thwarted by the warring factions within his party. The simple reality is that while President Donald Trump's election may have papered over differences within the GOP as to the right way to tackle, say, what to do with Obamacare, it has not eliminated those differences. They are bubbling just under the surface, forgotten but not gone.

And, unlike people like Paul Ryan, the man who replaced him, Boehner is entirely unencumbered by a political calculation or concern. He is out -- and he's never coming back.

 

Remember that Janis Joplin once sang "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." Boehner has nothing left to lose. And so he is free to speak his mind and speak honestly about the massive policy and political lift that Republicans face when it comes to their promise to get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something better.

His former colleagues are learning that the hard way as what they promised to be a quick and orderly process is slowing down amid the challenges of what comes next for health care in this country. As that process slows, Democrats are seizing the opportunity at this week's congressional town halls to make their unhappiness known.

Smart Republicans then should listen to Boehner. Maybe jettison "repeal and replace" in favor of "fix what's broken"? Either way, Boehner will be just fine.

 

 

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