You can do a lot in seven years if you really work at it. The world has seen a seven-year war; cicadas come out of the ground every seven years; Maxwell drops a new album about every seven years.
In other words, a lot of global, amazing and world-altering things can be accomplished over seven years. Apparently, though, one of those things that can’t happen in seven years is the creation of a health care bill that is better than the one you claim to hate. After pouting, stamping their feet and running on repeal for almost seven years, Republicans have effectively killed their own health care bill in the Senate. Not because it was too hard, or because it was financially unfeasible, or even because it was too soon. No, they can’t pass the bill because the current version ... Just. Isn’t. Mean. Enough. #MAGA
On Monday night, in a move so petty that President Donald Trump himself could have come up with it, Republicans Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) both released statements saying that they could not support the newest version of the Senate repeal-and-replace bill. This was literally minutes after Trump had finished a strategy dinner with Republican leaders on how to vote on the bill this week.
The reason the two senators can’t support the bill? Basically, it’s not harsh enough, and both want the entirety of the Affordable Care Act repealed, not only some parts of it, which is what the current Senate bill does.
Now, to clarify, Republicans have changed their position on what to do about Obamacare more times than Jared Kushner’s had lawyers, but this latest move by two senators throws into doubt the entire message of the party over the last seven years. Initially, Republicans wanted to just repeal the Affordable Care Act, and they voted on that more than 40 times and even managed to get a bill to then-President Barack Obama’s desk in 2016 that Obama vetoed so hard that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) couldn’t obstruct for a week.
Then, once millions of Americans began to enjoy some aspects of the ACA, the Republicans changed their tune to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. Now, with a Republican president, Republican control of the House and Senate, and more than half of the 50 states with Republican governors, they still can’t manage to get “repeal and replace” passed.
With four Republican senators—the two recent defections as well as previous “no” votes Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky—the Republicans have no chance to reach the 50 votes needed to pass a replacement bill. Now they can only hope to repeal the ACA and suffer what could be devastating consequences at the ballot box next year. But since when has promoting a public policy that the actual public hated ever stopped the Republican Party in the last eight years?
McConnell, after calmly taking the wobbly, burning wheel of Trump’s legislation, has now threatened to just push a repeal bill out there and see what sticks. To be clear, a repeal bill of the ACA would mean the following would happen, either immediately, by the end of 2017 or within a few years:
- Insurance companies go back to charging people with pre-existing conditions (like pregnancy) more money.
- Over 23 million Americans lose coverage either because of Medicaid reduction, they get kicked off their parents’ plans, their employers drop coverage or they’re priced out of the market.
- Doctors go back to putting leeches on the stomachs of wayward women during their menses.
OK, perhaps these are a little exaggerated—some studies show that 20 million people would lose coverage, not 23 million. The point is, the GOP has had seven years to come up with a policy replacement and can’t do it. Now, instead of fixing the existing law, or perhaps taking more time to work out an effective replacement, they’re just going to blow the whole thing up and hope that no one notices when they can’t go to the doctor anymore.
Regardless of how one feels about the Affordable Care Act, the utter failure of the Republican-controlled federal government to come up with a coherent policy “solution” after seven years is disturbing. This is something that they have run on and talked about for years, but when given the chance to lead, they have flinched. This really doesn’t bode well for what this government will be able to do when faced with a problem that Republicans didn’t actually cause themselves.