Mike Littwin: The real story of the failed Obamacare repeal: GOP can’t handle the truth
The great lie of the long-running Obamacare debate has officially been revealed. The reason Republicans spent seven years without offering their own health care plan is that they don’t have one, they’ve never had one, and, the way it looks, they never will have one.
That’s because there is no plan that offers better coverage for less money. There is no plan that can pass muster with voters if it robs hundreds of billions from Medicaid and deposits that money into the hands of the most wealthy. There is no acceptable plan that doesn’t insure as many people as possible or cover pre-existing conditions or allows junk insurance policies to set lifetime caps.
If Obamacare repeal and replace is truly dead — or, as some repeal opponents fear, only mostly dead — there is much blame to go around, but most of it centers on the fact that the debate was always more about Obama, who, I’m pretty sure, is no longer president, then it was about Obamacare, which is basically accepted now by a majority of Americans.
In the face of defeat, Donald Trump’s latest ploy is to let Obamacare die, rather than try again to repeal it, and then come up with a new plan! Or in his tweeted words Tuesday morning: “We were let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans. Most Republicans were loyal, terrific & worked really hard. We will return!” In a seperate tweet, he added, “As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!”
What Trump’s “plan” would do, of course, is to force insurance companies to flee the exchanges and leave, according to the CBO, approximately 32 million Americans without health insurance. On the other hand, Trump can keep his new cowboy hat. Stay tuned, indeed!
That the great lie is revealed during the multi-Pinocchioed Trump administration is, let’s just say, fitting. Trump and Mike Pence spent the last desperate days pretending that robbing Medicaid of $770 billion in projected spending would make the law stronger and better protect the most vulnerable. It would have been laughable on its face if you don’t count the not-exactly-funny circumstance of being poor and without insurance.
Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell was being called out by conservative Republican Sen. Ron Johnson for lying — is there a theme here? — as McConnell reportedly was assuring wobbly moderates that the most radical cuts in Medicaid were back-ended and would never be enacted. Johnson called it a significant “breach of trust,” which, in Senate speak, is like calling someone a Donald Trump.
Seven years into the debate, this is one of the great political humiliations of our time, and yet the sound you hear all the way from Washington is Cory Gardner, alongside a handful of Republican centrists and moderates, loudly cheering that humiliation. You can’t see Gardner, of course, since the last place he wants to be is anywhere out in public. But the cheering is unmistakable.
What it means to Gardner — whose Senate career was built on his opposition to Obamacare — is that if the bill is dead, he won’t actually have to go on record in support of the latest iteration of Trumpcare, one that is supported by little more than 20 percent of Americans. With luck, he won’t have to say anything at all, which is Gardner’s default position on this bill even though he was on the committee that helped write it.
Four Republicans stepped up — three, we should add, for entirely wrong reasons — to block the bill from even being debated. I’m old enough to remember when you needed 60 votes to cut off debate in the Senate. Once again, mastermind Mitch McConnell couldn’t manage to get to 50.
So, now what?
Though Republicans have lost another battle, that isn’t to say they’ve necessarily lost the war. Soon after Jerry Moran and Mike Lee announced they wouldn’t vote for the bill going forward, leaving Republicans with only 48 votes, Trump was tweet-calling for a vote to just repeal Obamacare and then “start fresh,” because otherwise, he reportedly told a Senate group Monday night, they’d look like “dopes.” He said the “Dems will join in,” a tweet that just might make Trump look like the dope.
On Tuesday morning, McConnell was still advocating straight repeal, which, congressional watchers tell us, has no chance to pass. Will McConnell really settle for blameshifting by making vulnerable senators vote against this bill —Gardner’s nightmare scenario? But John McCain, from his sickbed, Johnson and Moran have all called for what they call in the Senate “regular order,” meaning, you know, committee hearings and expert testimony and “regular” bill-making. Others are committing to voting against straight repeal.
And as the bill falls apart, conservative Hugh Hewitt was already tweeting about a purge — starting with Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who had opposed the first Senate bill, even if it meant he would be replaced by a Democrat. Will more votes really help?
But, for those opposing the bill, we should remember even as the bill went down, Susan Collins was the lone centrist Republican to have stepped up. I’ll give her the floor to remind everyone, including Gardner, what is truly at stake: “This bill would impose fundamental, sweeping changes in the Medicaid program, and those include very deep cuts. That would affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including disabled children, poor seniors. It would affect our rural hospitals and our nursing homes. And they would have a very difficult time even staying in existence.”
Or to put it another way, if Trump and McConnell have truly lost, that means tens of millions of Americans will have won.