Credit, blame … hey, six of one, half-dozen of another, right? A few weeks ago, Democrats felt so confident in the demise of the effort to repeal ObamaCare that they began falling in line behind Bernie Sanders’ Pied Piper routine on single-payer. Now that Senate Republicans have launched a last-ditch effort with Graham-Cassidy, Politico’s Elana Schor reports that some Democrats now believe Sanders blew it by distracting them from the need to shore up ObamaCare:
Last week, a group of Senate Democrats rallied behind single-payer health care at a splashy news conference. This week, the same group is scrambling to beat back the GOP’s latest Obamacare repeal blitz.
The contrast shows the chasm between the two parties’ approach to health care: Republicans claim that Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” pitch fueled their revived repeal effort, an argument that even Democratic single-payer foes dismiss as untrue. Yet some Democrats wish more attention had been paid to protecting the Affordable Care Act before some of the party’s biggest names turned to single payer.
It’s also a reminder that in Washington you can never underestimate the power of a president, even if they don’t always win. President Donald Trump wanted one last shot at repealing Obamacare, and Democrats are now struggling to preserve a victory they thought they’d already secured.
Yesterday Democrats reacted angrily to the decision by Republicans not to pursue Lamar Alexander’s exchange-stabilization bill, but they’ve hardly been negotiating in good faith either. While Alexander and a few Republicans on Capitol Hill made efforts to address the meltdown in the ObamaCare system, Democrats mostly talked about dumping the ACA for Bernie’s Medicare for All program. None of them had any proposals for funding it, but the publicity certainly boosted their profiles among the progressive activists whom they see as the future of the party.
In this case, one good turn deserves another.
Before we start handing Sanders any laurels or goat horns for his role in repealing ObamaCare, though, we’d better wait to see if a repeal happens at all. We’ve got just ten days in which it must happen or fail entirely, and Republicans don’t even have a CBO score yet on the bill. Just as with previous repeal efforts, success or failure will come down not to Bernie Sanders, but whether two of three GOP votes can be won — Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain.
The Hill profiles the broad strokes of the bill, and at least one option looks like a sure loser if it remains:
The bill defunds Planned Parenthood for a year, a provision that’s been divisive among Republicans.
This measure is important to many senators, including the caucus’s most conservative members. But Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have objected to defunding Planned Parenthood in other bills, particularly GOP leadership’s ObamaCare repeal bill. …
During the last floor debate on an ObamaCare repeal bill, Murkowski and Collins wanted a vote on an amendment to strip out the Planned Parenthood provision.
But ultimately the Senate never reached that amendment vote as the pair — along with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — opposed a scaled-down version of ObamaCare repeal, halting work on the bill.
Afterward, Murkowski and Collins bragged about protecting Planned Parenthood, so it seems very doubtful they’ll go along with the defunding effort at this stage, especially with concerns over the impact Medicaid changes will have on their states. If Republicans agree to strip out this clause, they may lose some conservatives — if not in the Senate, then in the House.
However, the Democratic push for single payer may convince everyone that the alternative to passing Graham-Cassidy is socialized medicine. If it passes on that basis, then yes, Bernie Sanders will be the man of the hour, but … don’t count those chickens just yet.
Addendum: Is there an Alaska Purchase in the bill that could win Murkowski’s vote? Maybe, maybe not, but even a Medicaid premium probably wouldn’t pry Murkowski away from the Planned Parenthood issue.