Yesterday House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held a news conference to celebrate the Affordable Care Act in advance of the bill’s fourth anniversary. She wholeheartedly celebrated the law, taking a much more triumphalist tone than her colleagues have lately. Despite the recent Democratic loss in Florida’s special election, Pelosi says “we just couldn’t be prouder” about the law. She called the ACA a “winner” and stated confidently that Democrats will have no problem running on it. You’d be forgiven for assuming she simply hasn’t been reading the newspaper lately. Politico:
Pelosi also emphasized that health law’s name, the Affordable Care Act, is important because it describes what the law will do: lower costs. She said opponents started using “Obamacare” because they “wanted to get away from the word ‘affordable,’” she added. […]“And by the way, it’s called the Affordable Care Act,” she told a reporter, repeating the law’s name several times. “I know you didn’t intend anything derogatory, but it’s called the Affordable Care Act. I tell [Obama] the same thing I told you. Affordable — there’s a reason.”
ACA cheerleaders abandoned this argument a while ago. After mass cancellations, many of those kicked off their plans were forced to buy more expensive ones, and defenders of the law admitted that many consumers would pay more than they had before. They justified these costs on a variety of grounds, including social justice (healthier people should pay more to support sicker people) and individual benefit (costlier plans will give people better and more desirable coverage). But either way, the defense du jour of the ACA is not that it makes health care affordable for all, but that it expands access to insurance and lowers the costs for the needy. The GOP is going to attack Democrats on this about-face during the next election cycle, and Democrats should be worried. Apparently, however, their leader remains unfazed.Even if Pelosi is out of touch in her unqualified defense of the ACA, Republicans shouldn’t make the parallel mistake. Obamacare may damage the Democratic brand, but it won’t necessarily enhance the GOP’s. Republicans have to do more than just oppose things if they want to achieve lasting success.