How well is the last-ditch effort to repeal ObamaCare going? It’s proceeding so well that the president and one of his allies have taken to feuding publicly over who’s to blame for its failure. Early this morning, in between tweets about Luther Strange and the Russian meddling “hoax,” Donald Trump fired a shot at fellow Republican Rand Paul for his adamant stand against Graham-Cassidy:
Rand Paul, or whoever votes against Hcare Bill, will forever (future political campaigns) be known as "the Republican who saved ObamaCare."
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017
Paul, who abides attacks with as much reticence as Trump, quickly fired back at Trump over his swampish remarks:
Calling a bill that KEEPS most of Obamacare "repeal" doesn't make it true. That's what the swamp does. I won't be bribed or bullied.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 22, 2017
This feud may expand in an uncomfortable way for Paul, however. Pro-life activists who need the Graham-Cassidy vehicle to get defunding of Planned Parenthood passed on a simple majority have begun a full-court press on Paul. They argue that a no vote isn’t just a vote to save ObamaCare, as Trump accused, but also a vote to save the leading abortion mill chain:
Pro-life activists descended on Sen. Rand Paul’s office in Kentucky on Thursday with a simple message: If he votes against a last-ditch bill to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood, then he will betray the core of conservatives’ beliefs.
Mr. Paul is one of a handful of holdouts on the latest repeal bill. He said it leaves too much of Obamacare intact.
But the bill’s supporters say it’s the best — and probably only — chance they have to dent the 2010 Affordable Care Act and if Mr. Paul is the one who stymies them, then he will be complicit in funding the “abortion Goliath” of Planned Parenthood.
“The disastrous status quo that is Obamacare is harming families, using our taxpayer dollars to fund abortion and line the pockets of Planned Parenthood’s billion-dollar abortion industry,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America.
This is one reason the Graham-Cassidy bill is likely to fail. Two of the three Republican holdouts, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, said that the Planned Parenthood defunding language on previous versions played a large part in their decision to oppose them. If Paul signed onto the bill, it wouldn’t matter; Mitch McConnell could then get to 50 without Murkowski and Collins. Without Paul, though, McConnell would have to trade off the defunding effort to get them, and then the bill would lose conservatives like James Lankford (R-OK), and run into serious trouble in the House:
Right now, though, there is considerable pressure on all 52 Republicans to fulfill their campaign promise of the last seven-plus years. The issue isn’t whether it’s the best plan, but that it’s the last chance they’ve got:
“It has all of the worst elements of the House bill that was passed in May and the Senate bill that was defeated in August,” said John Baackes, CEO of L.A. Care Health Plan.
But none of that may matter to Republican senators facing extreme pressure to finally pass something — anything — that scraps the health law and fulfills seven years of campaign promises.
Next week’s expiration of the rule allowing Republicans to pass a bill without any Democratic support has “concentrated Republican minds,” said Dean Clancy, a conservative health policy analyst who supports the plan. “This is their last chance to show they can govern on health care, and if they can’t govern on health care, what can they govern on?”
“They all hate health care,” said a GOP lobbyist on background. “They don’t know where to go on it. They just want to take a vote and be done with it.”
This is still a long shot, and so is the Planned Parenthood defunding effort. At this point, even Rand Paul should ask whether it’s better to get half a loaf — or event 10% of a loaf — rather than none.