Don’t be fooled by reports that say Republicans’ health care act is on life supportCommentary, Latest Issue, Politically Aware Thursday, July 6th, 2017
Commentary: Politically Aware
In 2010, the Tea Party used congressional recesses to hammer members of Congress on the evils of “Obamacare.” Though it eventually passed, energized activists carried Republicans to sweeping victories in the midterm elections, and have kept repeal (and replace?) at the forefront of conservative politics ever since.
Having ridden the same wave to become majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell understands the dangers of recesses better than anyone, which is why he tried desperately to get his “Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA),” passed before the July 4 recess. He failed. Progressives need to make him pay this week.
Don’t be fooled by reports that say BCRA is dead or on life support. We heard the same thing after the House failed to pass their bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Within weeks, they got the votes by paying off conservatives with state waivers and moderates with an irrelevant amount of extra spending. Then it was off to the Senate, who vowed to start from scratch but produced something remarkably similar, at least with regard to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score of 22 million more people uninsured.
Numerous Republican senators came out against the bill after the CBO report, but only once there were enough defections from the moderate and conservative fringes of their party to ensure they weren’t the decisive votes. As happened with the House, opposition from those senators will likely fold if the bill is otherwise set to pass.
McConnell’s toughest votes appear to be Sen. Rand Paul (KY) on the right and moderate Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Dean Heller (NV). That’s enough to keep McConnell at 49 votes, one under the 50 vote threshold he needs to use Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote, but hardly enough to say the bill is dead, particularly when McConnell has billions of dollars to throw around to keep people happy.
Collins’ vote could be harder to purchase, because her resistance is in part due the bill’s one-year block on reimbursements to Planned Parenthood, which is also an issue for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK). Don’t be surprised if that provision is stripped to get those votes, because the unifying conservative principle underlying BCRA is neither social issues nor health care – it’s tax cuts. That will be the final argument to hold outs on either side, and it’s likely to work unless progressives keep up the fight, and call BRCA what it is: a tax cut for the wealthy paid for by slashing Medicaid spending, which includes nearly 50 percent of births in many states, insurance for children and 45 percent of nursing home days for older Americans.
Start with calls to Sens. Feinstein and Harris, but don’t stop there. Anything that passes the Senate will need to be passed by the House in some form, so call the California Republican congressmembers who put AHCA over the line. Show up to their town halls and make sure they, and Sen. McConnell, know that the Tea Party had nothing on #Resist.
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