Why the Republicans are still obsessed with repealing Obamacare

Opinion

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, arrives for a press conference at the U.S. Capitol where he unveiled his budget plan on March 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with both Republican and Democratic caucuses this week about the budget, starting today with the Senate Democrats. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, arrives for a press conference at the U.S. Capitol where he unveiled his budget plan on March 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with both Republican and Democratic caucuses this week about the budget, starting today with the Senate Democrats. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The release of the House GOP’s official budget, written by former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, revealed one policy the party can’t let go: repealing President Barack Obama‘s health care law.

The Supreme Court, led by a bloc of five conservatives, has upheld the Affordable Care Act. The American voters effectively affirmed the legislation by reelecting President Obama.

Even a group of conservative governors, such as New Jersey’s Chris Christie, have effectively conceded the law will go into effect and pledged to start complying with its edicts.

Budgets in Washington have always been used by political parties to show their wish list, as opposed to agenda items they actually expect to pass. Republicans know the repeal has no chance of becoming law, just as President Obama’s budget, due to be released next month, will likely include spending on infrastructure he knows Republicans will block.

But the inclusion of repeal in the House budget illustrates a broader problem for the GOP: a lack of a forward-looking vision. Beyond keeping taxes and spending low and getting rid of Obama’s health care law, the party agrees on little. Many Republicans don’t even support the ideas, such as turning Medicare into a voucher-like program, that Ryan touts as a replacement for Obamacare. The party has almost nothing to say on issues, like education, that Americans are passionate about, except to criticize President Obama’s proposals. Republican officials are divided on cultural issues like gay marriage as well as foreign policy, as illustrated last week by the divide between GOP senators Rand Paul (Ky.) and John McCain (Ariz.) over immigration.

So focusing on Obamacare is a way of unifying the party’s leaders in Washington and its activists outside. But it’s not a solution for what Republicans acknowledge is their real challenge: offering new proposals that court voters, particularly young people and minorities, who have overwhelmingly favored President Obama in the past two elections.

Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @PerryBaconJr.