Why Are Republicans Shooting Themselves in the Foot With a Health Care Bill?

| Thu Feb. 6, 2014 10:51 AM EST

Ed Kilgore points me to The Hill today, which reports that House Republicans plan to draft a genuine Obamacare replacement bill later this year:

For years, Republicans have promised a “repeal and replace” strategy on ObamaCare, but have never coalesced behind one plan. President Obama has repeatedly mocked the GOP for not delivering an alternative.

[Eric] Cantor intends to move a repeal-and-replace bill before the midterm elections in November, according to a source familiar with the situation. He broached the issue at the House GOP retreat in Cambridge, Md., late last week.

“I think it is very likely that we’re going to have it before the election, we’re going to give the people — or at least we are going to try to give the people — a clear distinction of who we are versus who the Democrats are,” Florida Rep. Tom Rooney (R) said.

I'm genuinely baffled by this. Why bother? Republicans have spent years screaming "Repeal and Replace!" without ever offering up a replacement, and it's worked fine. Sure, it invites mockery from folks like me, but has that ever done them any harm? Not that I can see.

On the flip side, any actual bill will be divisive within their own caucus and provide a rich target for Democrats at the same time. When it's all just hazy smoke, Dems have nothing to get a handle on. Once there's actual legislative language, all they have to do is find the least popular bits, twist them into granny-killing death panels, and go to town.

If there were an actual chance of passing this bill, it might be worth it. But there's not, and as near as I can tell, it's literally 100 percent downside and no upside. What on earth is the point?