Not that there was a prayer of clean repeal happening anyway, but with Capito out, Susan Collins an almost definite no, and other senators like McCain and Jerry Moran calling for a return to regular order in crafting an ObamaCare replacement, McConnell’s not only not getting anywhere near the 60 votes he’d need for repeal, he’s not getting anywhere near 50:
My latest statement on the Senate health care bill & planned vote to repeal Obamacare: pic.twitter.com/yAVIxgptCu
— Shelley Moore Capito (@SenCapito) July 18, 2017
That first line is a doozy. Trump, by the way, won Capito’s home state by 42 points last year. If she’s this jittery about clean repeal, imagine how terrified Republicans from battleground states are.
The president’s trying to solve his problem today by calling for McConnell to nuke the filibuster for legislation so that bills can pass with a simple 50-vote majority. But, er, why? What would that accomplish here? His problem isn’t Democratic obstruction, as much as he’d like his fans to believe that. It’s the fact that getting Senate Republicans together on anything is like herding cats. What’ll be the party’s excuse for failure if they did somehow move to a 50-vote threshold and still couldn’t repeal and replace ObamaCare?
This is at least the third time in less than three months that he’s called for ending the legislative filibuster as a panacea to the health-care malaise. He did it once before in early May as the House was preparing to finally pass a bill, then came back to it at the end of that month. Now he’s after it again because he knows that a clean repeal can’t be done via reconciliation and therefore would require 60 votes, necessitating a Democratic buy-in that won’t happen. Although, again, Democrats aren’t really the obstacle here:
To put this plainly: if there aren't 50 votes for repeal/replace, there aren't 25 votes for standalone repeal. https://t.co/H0qy9xpqPP
— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) July 18, 2017
CBO estimated earlier this year that a clean repeal would result in 32 million more people uninsured than under ObamaCare. Many of those people would be uninsured by choice, of course, since they’d no longer be required to purchase insurance by O-Care’s mandate, but that number is an albatross for purple-state senators like Dean Heller. Meanwhile, Trump himself seems conflicted about the timeline of supposed repeal: Does he want to try to do it now, even with a two-year implementation delay as part of the package, and risk having the resulting uncertainty destabilize the ObamaCare exchanges? Or does he want to wait until ObamaCare collapses due to its own unworkability, proving that the law is a failure and making repeal necessary at that point?
Which is it? Repeal now or let ObamaCare fail? The “let it fail” approach doesn’t work if you repeal now with a delay since Democrats will claim that it was the uncertainty caused by Republicans, not problems with the law itself, that triggered its failure. And Trump’s gambling that voters would agree that it’s the Democrats, the architects of ObamaCare, who deserve most of the blame for its failure rather than the Republican-run government that could have/should have either fixed it or replaced it with something better when it had the chance but instead stood aside and let a disaster unfold.
Don’t blame Trump for Republican paralysis on this issue, though. Philip Klein is right: This is a failure years in the making, beginning long before Trump even thought to run for president.
For Republicans, things are much more complicated. When playing to conservative audiences, they tout the benefits of limited government, free market solutions, lower taxes and spending, and less burdensome regulations. And the more ideologically conservative and libertarian members of Congress genuinely believe in those things. But beyond those relatively few politicians, most elected Republicans are afraid to say they don’t believe that there is a right to health insurance, or that they don’t think that the federal government should guarantee coverage. Or heck, it would even be hard to find many elected Republicans to say, “We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life,” as Franklin Roosevelt, the father of the modern welfare state, did when he signed the Social Security Act into law…
The problem for Republicans is that they cannot have all things. They cannot simultaneously have a cheaper, less regulated market, with lower taxes and spending, that provides relief to Obamacare’s victims — without being willing to accept that a certain amount of disruption will occur to the law’s beneficiaries.
Everything flows from the fact that ObamaCare forged a consensus among Americans that people with preexisting conditions must be covered at affordable rates. Once the GOP conceded that point, they were stuck in terms of what they could reasonably do: Requiring coverage of the very sick requires a lot of revenue for insurers, and that revenue is either coming from Uncle Sam or from healthy people forced to pay in by purchasing coverage themselves under a federal mandate. Any GOP effort to make plans cheaper and less comprehensive means less revenue, which in turn means more very sick people at risk of either losing coverage or paying unaffordable rates. Klein correctly identified that as the GOP’s fatal concession in the health-care debate. The last few months in the Senate have essentially been an exercise in the party wrestling with the reality of that concession and finally giving up.
As for the filibuster, Trump must be aware that 61 senators signed a letter in April opposing any change to it for legislation, putting McConnell nowhere near the 50 votes he’d need to change the rules. Presumably this is just classic Trumpian buck-passing: By emphasizing the fact that Senate Republicans won’t change the rules to their advantage, even though changing the rules in this case wouldn’t get them much closer to their goal, he’s making it easier for Republican voters to blame McConnell and the bums in Congress for letting them down than the president. Which is … an interesting strategy ahead of a midterm, when it’ll be those bums, not the president, who are on the ballot.
Here’s Rob Portman also strongly hinting that he’s a no on a clean repeal, all but dooming McConnell’s Plan B. Ben Domenech asks a good question: Why did McConnell announce last night that the Senate will vote on a straight repeal without knowing that he had the votes? Is the point of this vote simply to force his own caucus to choke on their previous votes for repeal when Obama was president? In what way does that help GOP senators up for reelection next year, knowing how it’ll piss off Republican voters?
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) July 18, 2017