As a not-so-serious part of their ongoing effort to get rid of Obamacare, House Republicans in May started a Twitter fight they called #ObamacareInThreeWords. Rep. Darrell Issa got things started with a tweet that said simply, "Serious Sticker Shock." Rep. Michele Bachmann added "IRS In Charge." Sen. Richard Burr tossed in "Huge Train Wreck."
Democrats hit back, weakly, with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's "Good for America" and Rep. Gregory Meeks' "What America Needs." And then the White House stepped in with a killer line: "It's. The. Law." The tweet was accompanied by a photo of the president's signature on the Affordable Care Act, dated March 23, 2010.
However, it appears the administration's bravado was all for show. At the same time Obama was expressing great confidence, White House officials were secretly meeting with representatives of big business to discuss ways to postpone enforcement of parts of the new law. And last week the White House announced the employer mandate -- sometimes described as a "crucial" element of Obamacare -- will be delayed to 2015 from its scheduled start on Jan. 1, 2014. The move stunned Republicans in Congress.
"These communications and the decision-making process related to the delay ... have not been disclosed publicly," wrote House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton in a letter to the Treasury Department. Along with 13 other Republican committee members, Upton demanded the administration reveal which businesses and which government officials were involved in the decision.
But the bigger question for Republicans is how to handle the administration's surprise retreat. Should they focus on secrecy, as Upton & Co. are doing? Should they push the White House to explain how Obamacare can still work when large employers don't have to pay fines for not covering workers and, perhaps more importantly, don't have to report their employees' health care information to the giant new Obamacare bureaucracy, so the bureaucracy can determine whether those employees are eligible to buy coverage on the exchanges? Or should Republicans just keep pressing for repeal of the whole thing?
"I think we'll almost certainly be sticking to a full repeal message all the way," says one GOP Senate aide. "The question here is for the administration -- not us -- and it's basically this: At what point will they realize that this law is unworkable?"
Obamacare is designed to increase the number of Americans who depend on the government to pay for health insurance. It will expand the Medicaid rolls, and it will give subsidies to millions of individuals and families to purchase insurance on the exchanges. In all, the government will be transferring hundreds of billions of dollars to Americans for health coverage.
The White House knows once those payments begin, repealing Obamacare will no longer be an abstract question of removing legislation. Instead, it will be a very real matter of taking money away from people. It's very, very hard to do that.
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.