Conservative Columnist: After Years of Obamacare Promises, Force These GOP Senators to Vote

Posted: Jul 24, 2017 1:05 PM
Conservative Columnist: After Years of Obamacare Promises, Force These GOP Senators to Vote

And now, a practical follow-up to my item this morning about CBO's deeply misleading and flawed projections of coverage in a post-Obamacare world.  Democrats have been beating the drum about 22 million people "losing coverage" under the GOP plan, causing angst among wavering Republicans.  But that talking point is rooted in an unsupportable fiction, as exposed by Avik Roy over the weekend.  Anxious Republicans may also be spooked but the horrific polling numbers attached to their Obamacare alternatives, which can largely be traced back to lockstep liberal opposition, incoherence on the Right, and the GOP's confounding unwillingness to proactively sell their bill while forcefully rejecting lies about it.  But even the most timid of Senate Republicans should not mistake status quo bias and discomfort over replacement proposals with enthusiastic support for the wheezing, imploding status quo.  As I also highlighted earlier, that's emphatically not the case:

If barely more than one-third of overall voters favor abandoning 'repeal and replace,' imagine how few Republican voters feel that way.  Elected GOP legislators ought to take note.  On that note, Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel penned an acidic column late last week, aggressively calling out upper chamber lawmakers who are standing in the way of essential healthcare reforms.  I made some similar arguments in my commentary last week, but Strassel puts a finer point on these contentions, aggressively naming names:

Mr. McConnell should make clear that the overwhelming majority of the Republican Party stands ready to make good on its repeal-and-replace campaign promise—and that it would have done so already were it not for a cynical or egotistic few. It’s time for some very public accountability. That rests in Mr. McConnell giving his caucus a drop-dead date to broker a compromise, after which he will proceed to bring up the House bill. And any Republican who votes against moving forward, “a motion to proceed,” will forever be known as the Republican who saved ObamaCare. The Republican who voted to throw billions more taxpayer dollars at failing entitlement programs and collapsing insurance markets. The Republican who abandoned struggling American families. The Republican who voted against a tax cut and spending reductions. The Republican who made Chuck Schumer’s year. Under the Senate reconciliation process, anyone can offer endless amendments—with roll-call votes.

...Voters would be able to see just how gigantic a Medicaid payoff Ohio’s Rob Portman, Nevada’s Dean Heller and West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito are demanding for their support. They’d watch supposed conservatives such as Tennessee’s Bob Corker vote against pro-growth tax cuts. They’d observe Utah’s Mike Lee offer up changes to ObamaCare mandates, muster not even a dozen votes, and realize how unpopular his position is. They’d witness Kentucky’s Rand Paul vote against all reform ideas—no matter how good—because they still weren’t good enough for Rand Paul. They’d see Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski cynically vote against the very same repeal-only amendment she supported in 2015, back when it didn’t matter. They’d see South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy cast the only two votes for a bill they’ve been pushing—and confusing everyone with—for weeks.

Strassel wraps up by reinforcing my central argument about getting onto the bill, debating it, offering amendments, and actually casting meaningful votes: "What the Senate leadership most needs to stress these coming days is that senators who claim they can’t “support” debating a flawed bill are snowing voters. Don’t like the bill? Get it to the floor and offer amendments. But do it in the open. Do it with some accountability. Maybe, finally under the public glare, Republicans will get their act together."  These sentiments would certainly be applauded by Joseph Rago, the Journal's 34-year-old Pulitzer Prize editorial writer, whose shocking death last week marked a great loss for reasoned discourse and sound conservative policy arguments.  In his final unsigned editorial, Rago advanced a similar name-and-shame rebuke to Republicans standing in the way of a vote (on which there has reportedly been some progress):

The ObamaCare Republicans come from both the conservative and moderate wings, but all of these Senators campaigned for nearly a decade on repealing and replacing ObamaCare. Now they finally have a President willing to sign literally any bill that lands on his desk, but in the clutch they choked. Some wouldn’t even allow a debate on the floor and the chance to offer amendments. The ObamaCare Republicans ran on fiscal discipline but they rejected the best chance for entitlement reform in a generation. They campaigned against deficits—and some like Mr. Moran and Nevada’s Dean Heller have endorsed a balanced-budget amendment—yet they dismissed a $1.022 trillion spending cut. They denounced ObamaCare’s $701 billion in tax increases but then panicked over repealing “tax cuts for the rich.” Conservatives like Ted Cruz and most GOP Senators played constructive roles, but a question for the ages is which cargo cult Messrs. Lee and Paul have joined. They pose as free-market purists but reject progress toward a freer market.

The same applies to the centrists who behind the scenes formed a death panel for the bill. No concession was ever satisfactory, and their demands watered down reform. Yet they wouldn’t defend their own compromises, or even try to rebut the media-Democratic caricature of the bill as a human-rights violation. West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito came out against the bill with a statement that began: “As I have said before, I did not come to Washington to hurt people.” Does she honestly think so little of her colleagues, and the party she chose to affiliate with, to insult them so casually? This moral grandstanding would be more persuasive if Ms. Capito hadn’t pledged to “turn the tide from a Washington that tells us who our doctors are and delivers a lower quality of care” at the 2016 GOP convention. The moderates will now say that failure can be redeemed with bipartisanship, and watching them beg to be rescued by Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer will be instructive, not least for exposing the futility of a good-faith health deal.

I'll leave you with the latest indicator of Democrats' inevitable slouch toward single payer healthcare, via a Senator with obvious presidential aspirations (plus my reply). Here we have the party that insisted that Obamacare would be "affordable" now saying that what will really reduce costs is a full government takeover of the entire system. Uh huh.  This is where one of our major political parties is clearly headed. Do their nominally anti-statist opponents have the wherewithal to actually use the precious, nonpermanent governing majorities voters have given them?