When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly known as “Obamacare”) was signed into law in the spring of 2010, congressional opponents vowed that the fight was not over. The most disastrous features of the new law would not take effect until 2014, leaving time for a concerted campaign to avert catastrophe. The way to spend that time, these opponents argued, was working to “repeal and replace” the law that Congress had just enacted.
The “repeal and replace” formulation quickly caught on, but it was not without its critics. That Obamacare should be “repealed” was obvious, given how strenuously conservatives and many independents objected to the new law. But “replace”? Hammering out the details of a new health-care law might easily stir controversy and sow discord, thereby undermining the push for “repeal.”