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Don’t indulge fantasies

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When describing a nearly impossible task, people used to say it would “take an act of Congress” to get it done.

It doesn’t appear that many people are using that phrase any longer. Members of Congress have turned “an act of Congress” into something rather meaningless.

The U.S. House of Representatives, for example, has voted about 50 times to repeal, defund or postpone measures of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. These moves have been pursued mainly by Republicans who are, in all fairness, keeping their word to their constituents who sent them to Washington to tackle the fiscal crisis facing the federal government.

As much as their devotion to carrying out a campaign promise is to be commended, enough is enough. GOP candidates must stop pledging to repeal Obamacare, and their supporters need to grasp the reality that such an “act of Congress” will never occur.

Why? Because the ACA is President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation, and he will never sign any bill that would dismantle it. And since he won’t leave office until January 2017, it will very likely endear itself more to the American people over the next three years.

Add to this the fact that the Democrats control the U.S. Senate, and they will never vote to scrap Obamacare either. Yes, they may lose control of the Senate either this year or in 2016. But unless the Republicans gain enough votes to override a presidential veto, which is highly doubtful, the ACA won’t go anywhere.

GOP candidates on the local level can lead the way in charting a new path on how to deal with Obamacare. Matthew A. Doheny and Elise M. Stefanik, who will face each other in the June 24 primary for the Republican nomination in the 21st Congressional District, both have said publicly that they would vote to repeal Obamacare if given the chance. In proclaiming this, they are playing to those making up the fringe element of the GOP who won’t be satisfied with anything less than unconditional surrender of the ACA — real life be damned!

But in separate interviews with the Watertown Daily Times, Mr. Doheny and Ms. Stefanik also both said that they realize a full repeal of the ACA is very unlikely. They said they would be willing to vote on measures to revise Obamacare to ameliorate some of the new taxes and provisions imposing heavy costs on consumers and confusing the marketplace for insurance coverage.

As horribly flawed as the ACA is, it has provided affordable health insurance for numerous Americans who found it difficult to obtain coverage in the free market. Many businesses have spent untold amounts of money to accommodate the perplexing mandates of Obamacare, and they would need to spend a lot more of their revenue to turn the clock back.

Politics being what it is, candidates often have to say things that appeal to certain constituencies to get themselves elected. We get that. But everyone knows that Obamacare is the law of the land and will be for years to come, so let’s stop playing games.

Mr. Doheny and Ms. Stefanik can show true leadership by telling their supporters that any talk of repealing the ACA is pure fantasy. Let’s focus on how we can make the law workable, not indulge in rhetoric that won’t solve anything.

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