“No, no, no”

    The Sunday morning talk shows are not exactly yukfests, but there was mirth aplenty yesterday when Republican congressional bigwigs were pressured to explain what they would do for uninsured and ill-insured Americans if they ever did manage to kill Obamacare. How would they replace it? What would they do, specifically?You would not be shocked to learn that they have nothing to say in response, beyond the usual boilerplate.One exchange on Fox News Sunday, between host Chris Wallace and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, had tremendous entertainment value.Wallace: “If voters elect a Republican president and a Republican Senate, your top priority will be, you say, to repeal and replace Obamacare. And I want to drill down into that with you. One of the keys to Obamacare is that it will extend insurance access to 30 million people who are now uninsured. In your replacement, how would you provide universal coverage?”McConnell: “Well, first, let me say the single the best thing we could do for the American health care system is to get rid of Obamacare….In other words, the single biggest step we could take in the direction of improving American health care is to get rid of this monstrosity.”Wallace: “But if I may, sir, you’ve talked about repeal and replace. How would you provide universal coverage?”McConnell: “I will get to it in a minute. The first step we need to take is to get rid of what is there, this job-killing proposal…We will pull out a scalpel and go step by step and make the kinds of more modest changes that would deal with the principal issue, which is cost…Things like lawsuit reform. Billions and billions of dollars are lost every year by hospitals and doctors in defensive medicine. Those kinds of steps – “Wallace: “But respectfully, sir, because we are going to run out of time and I just want to ask, what specifically are you going to do to provide universal coverage to the 30 million people who are uninsured?”McConnell (delivering the punch line): “That is not the issue.”Actually, that is precisely the issue. But let’s move on. Over on CBS News, it was the same dog and pony show –  with House Speaker John Boehner doing the bob and weave with host Norah O’Donnell.O’Donnell: “Since you are going to be repealing (Obamacare), are you willing to roll back the provisions that would provide free mammograms…?”Boehner: “Listen, there are a lot of provisions that can be replaced. Remember, I said, we want to take a common-sense, step-by-step approach to replacing Obamacare.”O’Donnell: “Let’s talk about what’s specifically in (Obamacare) because there are a lot of protections for individuals…What about additional preventative care – like for children, for instance, you don’t have to pay a co-pay on immunizations.Boehner: “As I, as I said, Republicans believe in a common-sense, step-by-step approach to replacing this law…”O’Donnell: “What about preexisting conditions? What about the millions of Americans that have preexisting conditions and are discriminated against?”Boehner: “We believe that the state high-risk pools are a much more effective way to making sure that those with preexisting conditions have access to affordable health insurance.”O’Donnell: “But you’re not saying you would be for a law that would prevent discrimination of those individuals?”Boehner: “No, we just believe there is a better way to make sure that they have affordable access…”O’Donnell: “So when you repeal (Obamacare), what are you going to replace it with?”Boehner: “We’re going take a common-sense, step-by-step approach…”O’Donnell: “…But when I talked about some of the specific provisions, you said you want a common-sense approach. But why not be specific about exactly what kind of protections you want to provide individuals? You won’t be specific. Why not say you would prevent discrimination of preexisting conditions?…If you like some of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act, why not work with it rather than repeal the whole thing?”Boehner: “No, no, no. No, this has to be ripped out by its roots…”O’Donnell: “And so you say, ‘to heck with all these provisions like additional preventative care for children, for women’- “Boehner: “We can replace. While we replace this, we can have a common-sense debate about which of these provisions ought to stay and which ought to go.”O’Donnell: “So all those people who have preexisting conditions, you say ‘we’re going to get rid of this and then at some point we’ll deal with it?'”Boehner: “Listen, I’ve already outlined we believe there’s a better way…” And so on. It doesn’t take a genius to decode the GOP strategy. “A common-sense, step-by-step approach” is akin to saying “we’re great at tearing down reforms and being negative, but as always we feel no urgency about specifying anything positive.”And this Boehner soundbite needs no decoding at all: “No, no, no.” On the other hand, the GOP may well get off scot free if the White House fails to fully engage. Not surprisingly, the tremulous Obama team seems to be hoping (yet again) that the health care issue will simply go away. Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, surfaced on numerous Sunday shows with the scintillating message that everyone should just move on. The Supreme Court has spoken, he said, and “I don’t think the American people want to have this debate again.”What matters, however, is that the Republicans intend to have this debate again. And their mirth-worthy evasions – which were so vividly on display yesterday – will go unchallenged unless the Obama campaign fiercely refutes. ——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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