POLITICS
03/28/2017 04:26 pm ET Updated Mar 28, 2017

Democrats Are Back On Offense And Waiting For GOP To Beg For Their Help

"Republicans have never once since they took authority back ... passed a fiscally necessary bill by themselves."
The GOP's years-long push to repeal Obamacare just failed. Democrats may have just gotten some leverage back.
Drew Angerer via Getty Images
The GOP's years-long push to repeal Obamacare just failed. Democrats may have just gotten some leverage back.

WASHINGTON ― With Republicans in retreat from their aborted effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are now in hot pursuit, demanding that the administration cease any effort to “explode” the health care law.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), meanwhile, is proposing her own tweaks to the ACA and calling on her colleagues to put forward their ideas.

“We can then discuss these suggestions in our Caucus and be prepared at the earliest possible time to go forward,” she wrote in a Tuesday letter to her caucus. “It would be my hope to create a list of priorities to engage with our colleagues, with social media and advocacy groups, and perhaps even with the President.”

The most aggressive proposal so far has come from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee. They’re calling for party members to embrace a Medicare For All program.

Pelosi floated some of her ideas for bipartisan fixes during a roundtable with reporters: extending subsidies for people who have higher incomes but don’t qualify for tax credits; restoring risk corridors; enabling the health and human services secretary to negotiate lower prescription drug prices; fixing the individual market; and extending reinsurance.

Asked how Democrats can work with Republicans on the health care law when House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) insisted Tuesday that the GOP will still repeal and replace it, Pelosi pointed to a portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the wall and said he was right that public sentiment is everything.

“This fight has done something transformational,” she said. “People who might not have been for the Affordable Care Act until they enjoyed it for three years now are like, ‘What, you’re taking that away from me?’ Promising something with the thought of the Affordable Care Act, that didn’t get anybody’s attention. But taking it away does.” 

People who might not have been for the Affordable Care Act until they enjoyed it for three years now are like, ‘What, you’re taking that away from me?’ House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

President Donald Trump, ready to wipe his hands clean of the health care defeat, said he is shifting his focus to tax reform and infrastructure. But before he gets to those, he’ll need to deal with the expiration of funding for the federal government, which comes on April 28, and the debt limit, which also looms. Getting either of those things done without Democratic support will be a difficult charge for the president, if health care is any indication.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday noted that Republicans routinely rely on help from Democrats to pass spending bills due to conservatives defecting.

“The Republicans have never once since they took authority back, the majority back, since 2010, have passed a fiscally necessary bill by themselves,” he said. “They’ve always needed the help of Democrats.”

No such help would be forthcoming unless Trump and Ryan stop undermining the ACA by “talking it down” and by taking administrative steps to maim it, Hoyer warned.

“If there are evident steps to undermine the Affordable Care Act, that will undermine good faith,” the Maryland Democrat said. “People, correctly, are very disturbed and upset about the fact that their health care is at risk and that the administration, in effect, says it’s going to explode, implode, fail.”

He said Democrats will continue to be “aggressive” about protecting the health care law. But they’re also eager to work with the president to find ways to improve it.

Trump has proposed some surprising reforms in the past. During the debate over repeal, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) used his time in a Budget Committee hearing to point out that if Trump wanted to follow through on his campaign promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “terrific,” he could fall back on an idea he once endorsed: single payer.

“Donald Trump supported a single-payer system modeled after Canada in 2000, in his book, We Deserve,” Khanna told The Huffington Post. “He knows that is the only system that would fulfill his promise of more benefits, more coverage and less costs. We should have every Democrat quoting Trump on a single-payer system as a mantra and support Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch in their vision for Medicare For All, or at least a public option.”

“To resist Trump,” he added, “we need to play offense and not just defense.”

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