Norm Coleman – the former senator from Minnesota and a prominent advisor for Mitt Romney – suggested over the weekend in an interview that no matter who the Republican nominee is, they are unlikely to fully repeal Obamacare.
"We’re not going to do repeal. You’re not going to repeal Obamacare… It’s not a total repeal... You will not repeal the act in its entirety, but you will see major changes, particularly if there is a Republican president... You can't whole-cloth throw it out. But you can substantially change what's been done."
He goes on to say: "The Supreme Court first of all will have to deal with it. If you get rid of the individual mandate, then this whole thing may collapse." Asked by the moderator whether this means other provisions will go away as well, Coleman says: "I don’t think they will go away, because I don’t think the Act works financially, it simply doesn’t work, if you have severability." Coleman maintains that Republicans still "need to do health care reform" and suggests that he supports the approach put forward by Paul Ryan and Ron Wyden.
Coleman's remarks are remarkable because every Republican candidate — including Romney — has vowed to make repealing the law a priority. Coleman is also the chairman of the American Action Network, which has urged the courts to strike down the law's individual mandate and its Medicaid expansion.
There are a number of takeaways from this, but this is a meaningful takeaway in large part because Coleman remains on the short list for a cabinet position in the next administration, and he’s almost assured a position there if he wants it (perhaps even at HHS).
In other words, he’s not your average political pundit.
If Coleman is correct—and I think it’s possible he is—the next Republican president is likely to go through an experience along these lines: an attempt to repeal the whole bill will be made, passing the House but being filibustered in the Senate. Reconciliation can only go so far, and in the wake of a Supreme Court decision knocking down the individual mandate, the right’s political push to repeal the whole of Obamacare is likely to become less pressing (ironically, the Court’s getting rid of the worst part of the law from the public’s perspective may undercut these efforts). The Senate is likely to force instead a compromise position, in which Obamacare is “fixed,” not repealed – made “more market friendly”, as Coleman suggests.
This may be a good end result for many of the stakeholders and the politicians involved. As for the American people, well, that’s a different story.
(Edited because originally that second blockquote didn't take.)