Not necessarily a disaster, as they might have delayed the meeting because they’re hammering out the final details on a deal that will get them to 216. But … this doesn’t sound good:
GOP rep texts that leadership just canceled a 9am conference meeting and says that "tells me it's panic time."
— Eliana Johnson (@elianayjohnson) March 23, 2017
Ryan’s weekly press conference, which was scheduled for 11:30 this morning, has been pushed to 3:30 as well. Take a step back here now, mindful of how conservatives screeched at Democrats in 2009 and 2010 for “rushing” ObamaCare through, and reflect on the fact that the House is still set to vote this evening on a bill that would remake America’s health-insurance industry … which they’re still writing, and which literally no one has read. Peter Suderman can’t believe that seven years of tea-party windbaggery about proper procedure and having to “pass the bill to find out what’s in it” has deteriorated into this farce:
Obamacare, for all its flaws, went through a months long process of debate and revision in both chambers of Congress. The bill was drawn up starting early in 2009, but the final vote wasn’t until March of 2010. The bill was long and complex enough that not everyone understood every aspect of it, and some of the analysis of its provisions turned out to be wrong. But all the major components were available for public scrutiny before the key votes.
If House Republicans pass a bill that was substantially rewritten the night before the vote, that won’t be true of the AHCA…
The rush to vote on the bill is itself a reason to be deeply skeptical of its merits, especially given the problems we have seen with drafts so far. It is a deeply irresponsible way to treat any legislation, and that irresponsibility is magnified by the scale and importance of this bill. Republicans would be passing Obamacare’s replacement using a process that is even more hurring and less transparent than they complained about Democrats using on Obamacare.
Indeed, the fact that GOP leadership is so eager to move the bill through the system without taking the time to make the case for its policy scheme, even to their own members, is a sign that their only real aim is to pass a bill and move on, regardless of its policy content.
That’s certainly Trump’s attitude, and most congressional Republicans seem less interested in the bill’s details than in the game of hot potato between the House and Senate over which chamber will end up having to administer the coup de grace to this travesty. You can give Trump a pass on process if you like because (a) he’s a newbie and (b) he’s never pretended to be a stickler for good government, but the House Republicans who are willing to rush this through basically sight unseen, from Ryan on down, after spending the entirety of Obama’s term lecturing the public about hidden deals and opaque lawmaking are a disgrace. They deserve the humiliation they’ll get if and when the bill collapses. I’ll say this, though, for Trump’s culpability: Would a president who means what he says about “draining the swamp” have allowed his party’s caucus in Congress to behave this way with a bill as momentous as this? The only fitting end to this process in the House is for them to hold the vote tonight at 3 a.m., when the country’s asleep and most can’t watch it go down, with Trump cheering them all the way.
But will it pass? Mark Meadows, leader of the Freedom Caucus, sounded chipper on Hannity’s show last night, even claiming that the caucus had an “agreement in principle” with the White House to include repeal of the regulations establishing ObamaCare’s “essential health benefits.” I wrote about that last night if you missed it: Ryan and his team initially thought that ObamaCare’s regs couldn’t be repealed in the Senate via the reconciliation process, but they’re rethinking that now and might tack the elimination of those regs onto the House bill to win over Meadows and his allies. Just one problem:
Repealing EHB, w/out making other substantial changes, would make the bill worse, not better. It would hurt the sickest people on exchanges.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 23, 2017
Obviously they’re not going to be repealing coverage for people with preexisting conditions, the most expensive part of ObamaCare. EHBs are included in ObamaCare partly in the interest of justifying higher premiums, which insurers use to help cover the cost of those preexisting conditions. What happens when you “reform” a law by maintaining the costly parts while removing some of the parts that make it less costly? That’s another reason why the GOP is eager to ram this thing through at the first possible moment. The tweaks the Freedom Caucus wants before they sign on might make actually make the CBO score worse. We need to pass the bill before Americans find out what’s in it, because they don’t like it much already and will like it even less if the bill is projected to cost more or cover fewer people after the GOP’s attempts to make it “better.” And even if it does pass, moderate Republicans in the Senate will be more likely to balk at the House bill once it’s been “improved” by stripping the EHBs out, which means this latest tweak might end up reducing the chances it becomes a law more than increasing them. See what I mean about this being mainly a game of hot potato? Ryan’s “improving” the bill by making it less likely to get through the other chamber.
The smart money right now says that they’ll probably delay today’s vote, but we’ll see. Here’s John Boehner, tea-party nemesis, on the evening that ObamaCare passed seven years ago, unwittingly providing the tea party’s epitaph.