Are Democrats ready to start negotiating with Donald Trump and Republicans over health-care reform? Chuck Schumer made the offer yesterday on the Senate floor, but as the video from NBC News shows, Trump didn’t bite:
Schumer hasn’t been serious about health-care reform since passing ObamaCare, and his reference to the Blair House summit proves it. What actually happened in that televised conference between Barack Obama and leading members of both parties is that Democrats simply ignored suggestions and offers from Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, on reform. It was the policy equivalent of a show trial, a Kabuki theater that took place less than four weeks before Democrats shoved ObamaCare through the needle’s eye of reconciliation, after nearly eight months of pushing the ACA in Congress. Democrats had no interest at that point in negotiation, let alone adoption of any new Republican ideas into the ACA’s framework. The meeting that Schumer touts here was a joke, a sham “negotiation” in which Obama offered a thin veneer of openness (he laughably served as “moderator” between the two parties in the discussion) in order to emphasize his superiority over Republicans — and for that matter, Congress.
However, NBC News also reports that Schumer’s caucus may be splintering under the pressure of the ObamaCare collapse:
Once-unified Democrats are splintering into competing factions over how to best move forward, with progressive lawmakers and activists aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., telling NBC News Wednesday they see the problems in the GOP as an opportunity to double down on their preferred health care reforms, like single-payer health insurance. They have shown little to no interest in negotiating with Republicans.
On the other hand, several Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., have said they have in mind a variety of modest changes to Obamacare that they’d love to sit down and discuss with Republicans. Schumer even invited President Donald Trump to a bipartisan meeting with all senators. …
“For me and for my Democratic colleagues we’ve got to take the gutting of Medicaid and health care off the table,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. “That has nothing to do with the premiums in the private market.”
In interviews with NBC News, Democrats rattled off a list of ideas where they think common ground is possible.
Several members, including Manchin, have co-sponsored a bill that would add a cheaper catastrophic plan to the insurance exchanges, among other tweaks. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., recently introduced legislation that would allow people in counties with no insurers to buy from the same exchanges members of Congress use.
Other Democrats have talked about restoring Obamacare provisions that cushion insurers against unexpected high costs that were removed in a prior bipartisan spending deal.
That last idea is a non-starter. The provision wound up as a continuing government subsidy that covered insurer losses into the infinite future, which would result in a tsunami of red ink. Marco Rubio pushed to include the repeal of that unlimited backstop, which didn’t damage ObamaCare as much as it exposed the ACA’s fundamental flaws and contradictions.
The other conditions are almost as unpalatable, but may not be avoidable. If Republicans can’t come up with an agreement within the next few days to pass an ObamaCare repeal and get it on Trump’s desk, then Trump may have no choice but to reach across the aisle to get something done.