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National Editorials & Columns

York: Dems don't know where to turn

When it comes to Obamacare, many Democrats take comfort in polls showing a small majority of voters, or at least a plurality, oppose repealing the Affordable Care Act. To them, that proves the Republicans’ do-away-with-it position is out of sync with voters as this November’s midterm elections approach.

The argument shows how far Democrats have retreated from the heady days when they rammed Obamacare through Congress over unanimous GOP opposition.

Democrats can’t argue that most people actually like the new law, and indeed many Democratic candidates have adopted a new mantra that it needs to be “fixed.” But at least voters don’t want to scrap it altogether.

The problem is, the truth may be a little more complicated than that. A new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll asked voters whether various policy positions would make them more or less likely to vote for a candidate for Congress this November. For example, would respondents be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who “supports repealing the health care reform law?” Would they be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who “supports fixing and keeping the health care reform law?”

The Journal found that 47 percent of those surveyed would be more likely to support a candidate who favors repeal, while 32 percent would be less likely, and 19 percent said it made no difference either way.

When asked how she would fix Obamacare, Democrat Alex Sink offered small suggestions that would not have addressed the higher premiums, higher deductibles, and narrower choices the law has imposed on millions of Americans. Other Democrats who have also pledged to fix Obamacare have offered even fewer ways to actually do it.

And Democrats are not getting any help from the administration. When Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee recently, she was asked by Republican Rep. Tom Reed for “any suggestions ... in areas that you want to fix the Affordable Care Act.”

“Has there been any legislation from the administration sent up to Congress in regards to those fixes?” Reed asked.

Sebelius noted that the administration has made unilateral changes in implementation. Republicans are well aware of that. But in terms of proposing legislation to fix or improve the president’s landmark achievement, Democrats have offered next to nothing.

But they have to do something. It’s conventional wisdom that Republicans who advocate getting rid of Obamacare have to offer an alternative. Now, it’s just as true that Democrats who advocate fixing Obamacare have to offer a fix. Soon.

• Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.

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