Earlier this week, House Republicans passed, by the slimmest (one-vote) margin, a bill that repeals and replaces Obamacare. After almost eight years of failing to do just that, the same members of Congress popped the tops of some beers, lit cigars and joined Trump for a celebration in the White House Rose Garden. Never mind that their bill has been rated “dead on arrival” in the Senate, that it is a putrid piece of legislation, and that it is the equivalent of a Baby Ruth candy bar that they slipped into the punch bowl. (1)
Over on the other side of the aisle, House Democrats and Progressives in general see this as a monumental political gaffe that has served to infuriate and energize their base. The plan now is to make every GOP representative who voted “yes” on the bill, pay for it when the 2018 midterm rolls around. If the results of that election serve to flip the House majority, then the aforementioned Republican celebration will prove Pyrrhic. (2)
The reality is with their separate reactions, Republicans and Democrats are both playing with our heads, trying to shape our perceptions regarding what the bill’s passage actually means. A sober assessment of what is ahead would lead to a cautionary warning to both; not so fast !!
As noted above, the House bill is viewed as so bad by the GOP’s Senate majority, that it won’t even be considered for debate. Indeed, there are some senate Republicans who want to scrap it altogether to clear the way for the writing of another bill that may or may not include some parts of the House document.
What might a Senate bill look like? Since that chamber has more moderate Republicans than are present in the House, expect any new document to reflect a softening, especially when it comes to the funding of Medicaid. If that is indeed what materializes and passes out of the Senate, then it must be reconciled with the House bill and that is going to take some major concessions on the part of all the Republicans involved in that process. The end result of all that compromising then gets returned to the House where it will not be welcomed gladly by that chamber’s arch conservative Freedom Caucus. Indeed, that raises the outside possibility that this same bloc will demand another set of revisions before they will vote their approval.
This tedious back and forth is the way the Constitution requires that the legislative process must work. That is why the “Not so fast” admonition is so appropriate here. We have just concluded step-1 in what will eventually prove to be a six-step process, ending with 45 signing a “repeal-replace” bill into law, assuming one even makes it to his desk.
Keep paying attention, but do not be swayed by the rhetoric issuing from both sides. Be sure to seek out the differences between the House bill and what the Senate comes up with, and in particular how the Congressional Budget Office “scores” both in terms of how many people will be negatively affected and the comparative costs.
Never has “stay tuned” been more appropriate.
- This imagery recalls the “pool scene” from the movie “Caddyshack”. If you missed that flick but still catch the meaning, your mind is as mischievous as mine.
- After King Pyrrhus who, in 280 BCE, won a fierce battle against the Romans, but at such a great loss of the lives of his own men, that history later recorded it as a “Pyrrhic victory”. That is the way the House GOP’s step-1 repeal-replace bill will be seen if the 2018 midterm results in an overturning of their majority.