He’s not declaring defeat in saying that but rather promising that the effort to repeal ObamaCare will go on, and that they’ll get it done eventually. Maybe. Probably not with this GOP caucus, though. Once the party holds 75 Senate seats or whatever, then they’ll be ready to repeal and replace.
Since truth is paramount, here’s a truth-bomb for you: The “skinny repeal” bill that he and all the other tea-party heroes voted for last night was garbage, substantively and procedurally. Had it passed, it would have left the GOP holding the bag for bailing out insurers once young healthy people started dropping their plans. And as a matter of pure process, it was a travesty. Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ben Sasse — all the guys who got famous lecturing the right about civics and transparency and good government were prepared to vote for a bad bill written on the day of the vote, with a roll call held in the dead of night without committee mark-ups, hearings, nada. “Skinny repeal” was, as Philip Klein correctly says, an insult. And Cruz was a willing participant.
Significantly, it leaves Obamacare’s regulatory framework in place, forcing insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions without charging more on the basis of health status. But by ditching the individual mandate that was supposed to compel younger and healthier individuals from purchasing insurance, it’s created a recipe for higher premiums and an exodus of insurers from the market.
Of course, we’re not supposed to focus too much on the demerits of this bill. In fact, even Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is going to vote for it, attacked the bill earlier Thursday as “half-assed” and as a “fraud” and “disaster.” The idea is that this bill is supposed to be the vehicle for senators to hash out a better bill in a conference with the House. But it’s totally bonkers for senators to vote in favor of a bill that they don’t want to become law, in the hopes that adding an additional legislative body to the negotiations will achieve what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could not in the past several months: get 50 senators to agree on a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The saving grace of the bill, supposedly, was that it was just a vehicle to get to a conference committee with the House and never would have become law. But there was no way to know that for sure. Paul Ryan promised the Senate a conference if they passed it, but that conference might have lasted five minutes before it became clear, per Klein, that the Senate was incapable of passing anything except skinny repeal. That would have put Ryan and the House GOP on the spot — either they could walk away, in which case they’d be blamed for tanking the Republican health-care reform effort, or they could rubber-stamp skinny repeal in the name of notching a win and the country would be saddled with a terrible mess. In the end Collins, Murkowski, and ol’ maverick McCain did the GOP a favor, sparing them from the ensuing fiscal chaos the party would have been blamed for and giving the many other wary members of the caucus political cover to pander to righties by voting yes.
Freedom Caucus chief Mark Meadows backed Cruz up this morning, saying that his group continues to work on two different bills that might conceivably pass the Senate and finally get repeal (or something like it) done. Another group of House members, though, is working on a bipartisan plan to stabilize ObamaCare now that it appears here to stay. A bailout may be coming either way, but at least the GOP’s fingerprints won’t be on the law that caused this one. Exit question: Does Ted Cruz have clean hands on telling the American people the truth about ObamaCare? He assured a lot of grassroots conservatives in 2013 that the law could be stopped if the political will on the right was there, never mind that the White House and Senate were controlled by Democrats.