Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers says ObamaCare is here to stay... or maybe not

If Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) is correct that her hometown newspaper inaccurately paraphrased her remarks on ObamaCare, it’s one of the most egregious misquotes in recent memory.  Or perhaps this is an especially vigorous case of backpedaling.

The original story, from the Spokane Spokesman-Reviewhad McMorris Rodgers throwing in the towel on ObamaCare and essentially picking up the Democrats’ campaign platform of fixing problems with the exchanges.  That’s big news, coming from a member of the GOP leadership, and a rising star who was selected to deliver the response to President Obama’s last State of the Union address:

With the news this week that more than 600,000 Washington residents have acquired new health care plans through the state exchange, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said it???s unlikely the Affordable Care Act will be repealed.

???We need to look at reforming the exchanges,??? the Eastern Washington Republican said Thursday.

The five-term congresswoman and chair of the House Republican Conference kicked off her re-election campaign this week with visits to Walla Walla, Colville and Spokane. She faces Democratic challenger Joe Pakootas.

McMorris Rodgers has been part of the Republican leadership in the House that has voted multiple times to repeal parts or all of President Barack Obama???s signature health care law. GOP members have said the law is unworkable, will increase costs for some and force others into inadequate coverage or plans they don???t want.

McMorris Rodgers continued those criticisms Thursday, but said the framework established by the law likely will persist and reforms should take place within its structure.

???It is a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to health care,??? she said. Consumers should have more choice for their coverage, and Democrats should abandon the idea that everyone will enroll because of the mandate, McMorris Rodgers added.

The congresswoman also said that the 85 percent of enrollees who received Medicaid coverage is a sign the program is not sustainable and many will receive subpar care.

So… it’s a top-down, one-size-fits-all disaster that’s herding people into unsustainable, subpar Medicaid welfare programs while reducing consumer choice in the actual insurance market, and therefore we have to keep it forever?  Democrats should abandon the one and only thing that can keep ObamaCare afloat, namely using the force of law to compel Americans to participate in it?  Republicans are eager to throw a winning issue away, months before an election, because they don’t want to beat the Democrats too badly?

None of that makes much sense.  McMorris Rodgers’ office told the Washington Examiner on Monday that it’s not what she said:

The Spokesman-Review, of eastern Washington state, made national news and earned a prominent link on the Drudge Report with a story headlined: “McMorris Rodgers says ACA likely to stay.” The article, dated April 25, further reported that the House Republican Conference chairwoman, during a meeting with the newspaper???s editorial board, “said it???s unlikely the Affordable Care Act will be repealed.”

But McMorris Rodgers was not actually quoted in the story as saying either of those things ??? the remarks were paraphrased ??? and her office on Capitol Hill told the Washington Examiner on Monday that she never said anything of the sort.

???The headline is not an accurate or representative portrayal of what the congresswoman said in the interview, what her voting record reflects, or what she believes. She will continue fighting to repeal Obamacare at every opportunity moving forward and replace it with patient-centered reforms,??? McMorris Rodgers spokesman Nate Hodson said.

The assertion about paraphrasing from the Congresswoman’s office is undeniably true – if you look at the Spokesman-Review story excerpted above, you’ll see that none of the “ObamaCare is here to stay” assertions are supported by direct quotes from McMorris Rodgers.  The paper also mixed in some editorializing that is implicitly attributed to her, but seems unlikely to have been part of her comments, as in the first sentence: “With the news this week that more than 600,000 Washington residents have acquired new health care plans through the state exchange, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said it???s unlikely the Affordable Care Act will be repealed.”

On the other hand, if these editorial insertions are stripped away, what remains is not too different from the political judgment made by some Republican politicians and commentators: even if Republicans win the Senate in 2014, it’s virtually impossible to imagine an ObamaCare repeal bill that would get past the Presidential veto pen.  2016 might be a different story, but that’s still a long way off, and Democrats are likely to put up stiff resistance against anything portrayed as repeal of their “signature achievement.”  The sort of “reform” that leaves very little of the Affordable Care Act – already gutted in several areas by Presidential fiat – is more politically feasible in the short term.

But even that gradual “repeal in the guise of reform” approach is a far cry from what the Spokesman-Review claims Cathy McMorris Rodgers said.  If she was misquoted or mis-represented, she should act quickly to dispel the confusion.  As the Washington Examiner noted, her alleged surrender to ObamaCare has already gotten a lot of play from both conservative and liberal media.

As for the GOP leadership’s strategy, they should consider that the window of political possibility doesn’t move unless determined and articulate leaders push it.  The American people were tricked into accepting ObamaCare, during a brief window of Democrat dominance in Washington.  The only way to make Democrats pay a price for their deception is to keep reminding people of the lies they were told, and that we can do better than weary submission to a lousy system that nobody has the guts to challenge.

Remind them also that none of ObamaCare’s dishonest salesmen ever told Americans that they would never be allowed to vote on control of their health care again, once ObamaCare passed.  No Democrat ever warned us in 2010 that we’d be stuck with their little scheme forever, even if it didn’t live up to their promises.  If they had given that fair warning, quite a few elections might have turned out differently.  And if Republicans are serious about helping Democrats ratify their political victories, the next few elections could turn out a lot differently than GOP strategists anticipated.