As has been noted at this site more than once, conservatives spent the past eight years, damning Obamacare (ACA) and vowing to repeal and replace it. No one has been more vociferous in such pronouncements than Trump who even bragged that the repeal and replace would be “easy” and therefore, something done promptly. The lot of them were going to produce a piece of legislation that would provide better and more affordable healthcare than Obamacare ever could. So, on its face, this wasn’t about ideology; it was all about doing better for the American people. Congressional Republicans were going to prove that they could get things done and actually govern.
And so far?
To date, what we witnessed was a sharp division among House Republicans with ideology at the heart of the split: The ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus pushed hard to make the healthcare bill being drafted more conservative with deeper cuts to Medicare/Medicaid and a repeal of capital gains taxes that were part of the ACA. Moderate Republicans were not inclined to go along with those types of changes. In the end, Speaker Ryan and the people tasked with preparing the bill for a vote, tried to appease both sides to the real satisfaction of no one. As a result, the House bill was eventually passed by a slim, one-vote margin. 45 praised this outcome, giving the bill his blessing before several days later describing it as “mean”, probably because it would have a negative impact on 23 million people.
On to the Senate
The legislation that passed out of the House then went to the Senate where it was initially labelled dead on arrival with some Republican senators declaring they would craft their own bill. Of course, they never really did that. What did happen was that the Senate made some relatively small changes in what came over from the House. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, believed he could get it passed with minimum debate and a quick, supportive vote.
That isn’t going to happen; at least not until after the coming July 4th holiday. Why? Because the same division present in the House (see above) surfaced in the Senate: A group of four GOP senators were, like the members of the aforementioned Freedom Caucus, pushing to make the Senate’s bill more conservative. Moderates were having none of it with the result that even a simple 51-vote majority (1) was out of reach.
What was this all about, really?
To the extent that it is possible to validly infer motive from behavior, one could easily conclude that congressional Republicans, not to mention Trump, were hellbent on keeping their repeal/replace promise. If they had ever stopped to estimate how hard that was going to be, they might have issued fewer gilt-edged guarantees. Moreover, they would have sought to do the greatest good for the greatest number rather than placating their grass-roots base that represents about 38% of the total electorate, and who salivate over having every shred of Obama’s legacy erased from the record books.
And then there is this
Remember the “individual mandate” that was part of Obamacare? Conservatives turned this into an assault on individual freedom; i.e. the government was going to force you against your will to buy health insurance. Millions of people saw things that way, viewed it as terribly unamerican, and voted accordingly.
Of course, this line of thinking and acting works only if one disregards the fact that in state after state, citizens are compelled to buy car insurance under threat of being fined if they do not do so. Republican governors and state legislatures have lived with that law for years without a murmur of discontent or talk of robbing people of their right of choice. At the most basic and fundamental level, this is no different from the particulars in Obamacare’s individual mandate; i.e. it is all about taking personal responsibility for managing your own risks, whether they involve getting into an accident or getting sick and needing care (2). Look on this as conservative hypocrisy on full display.
With congressional Democrats sidelined because of their minority status, it’s going to remain for their Republican counterparts to thrash this out and come up with a bill that so effectively “threads the needle” that it can be reconciled to the satisfaction of both House and Senate Republicans, and gets sent to Trump for his signature. If that doesn’t happen, 45 and the congressional GOP leadership may just elect to drop the matter, leave Obamacare in place and hope that it collapses which could indeed happen.
Do not expect to see the end of this any time soon; certainly not until well after July 4th. In the meantime, we have news about Russiagate to occupy us. To get back on that topic, watch for “Playing Nostradamus” to appear next at this site.
- Since here are 100 seats in the US Senate, a majority can be attained with the vote of 51 senators, or in the case of a 50-50 tie, having that deadlock broken by the vote of the Vice President.
- My thanks to fellow traveler “Zeek” whose thinking and writing I have channeled here.