Skip to main content

What GOP must do if health care law overturned

By Ford C. O'Connell, Special to CNN
April 6, 2012 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Tea Party members protesting President Obama's health care law outside the Supreme Court on March 27.
Tea Party members protesting President Obama's health care law outside the Supreme Court on March 27.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Supreme Court is deliberating on President Obama's Affordable Care Act
  • Ford C. O'Connell: If the law is struck down, GOP must be ready to present an alternative
  • He says there is no doubt that health care will be a highly volatile issue in this election year
  • O'Connell: Republicans should offer a free-market approach to health care reform

Editor's note: Ford C. O'Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on the 2008 McCain-Palin presidential campaign, is chairman of CivicForumPAC, an organization that promotes conservative activism. He has appeared as a guest commentator on CNN, Fox News and other TV networks.

(CNN) -- No one will know until June how the Supreme Court will rule on President Obama's Affordable Care Act. What we do know is there are three possible outcomes -- the law is upheld, struck down or struck down in part -- and Republicans must be prepared for each.

If the law, also known as "ObamaCare," is struck down -- in whole or in part -- and the GOP is not prepared, it could find itself on the losing end of a vicious battle that could lead to four more years of Democratic control of the White House and perhaps Congress as well.

On Monday, the president for the first time commented publicly on the Supreme Court's deliberations. He warned the court about "judicial activism" and "a lack of judicial restraint" -- something Republicans have said they abhor. And he cautioned the "unelected group of people" -- the justices on the court -- against "overturn[ing] a duly constituted and passed law."

Ford C. O\'Connell
Ford C. O'Connell

He walked back those comments after critics, including even liberal columnist Ruth Marcus, took issue with them.

But the message was clear. The president may say he is confident the court will uphold the law, but it seems he's not entirely optimistic.

CNN Explains: Health care reform

And if the law is overturned, we can count on the president to raise the issue on the campaign trail. It's a reasonable strategy.

Plus, "relitigating" the court decision would be better for him than to run on issues such as unemployment rate, the state of the economy or the price of gas, which he hasn't handled well. That leaves the Supreme Court.

Although it may be hard to rouse conservatives to action right now since they don't know how the court will rule, it's better to be ready than not. If the law is overturned, they will need to come up with a comprehensive alternative. They can take some time to hash out the details by engaging the public on the issue. They can start by telling voters, in the words of the Cato scholar Doug Bandow, that "ObamaCare represents extraordinary federal overreach, a bid to legislate well beyond Congress' constitutional powers."

Republicans should offer a free-market approach that ends tax-favored treatment of workplace coverage; encourages competition, even across state lines; promotes consumer choice; and somehow addresses those with pre-existing conditions. In many ways, it would mirror portions of what Mitt Romney began to outline in a recent USA Today op-ed.

The Republican plan should seek to repair what is wrong with the health care law but deal respectfully with popular provisions, such as the one that allows young adults to stay on their parents' plans into their mid-20s.

They also must force insurance companies to explain why they are hesitant to provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions without an individual mandate. Voters will want to hear something from Republicans that indicates they know, care and want to deal with this problem.

For most Americans, health care is like plumbing: They know they need it; they don't truly know how it works, but they definitely know when it's not working. And they sense now health care is not working, and the health care law -- flawed though it may be -- represents a legitimate attempt to fix it.

There is no doubt health care will remain a highly volatile issue in this election year. If ObamaCare is rejected by the court, it would present a huge opportunity for Republicans. They could look like problem-solvers by coming up with a smart proposal that takes the best ideas from the other side. And if they can message it properly, they'll be in a sweet spot.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ford C. O'Connell.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2248 GMT (0648 HKT)
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2049 GMT (0449 HKT)
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1859 GMT (0259 HKT)
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT