How The GOP's Health Care Football Became A Time Bomb

At this point, I would not be surprised if the GOP loses both Houses in 2018.
07/28/2017 06:54 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2017

You can hear Republicans now: “Oh, the good old days, when we could beat up Obamacare and not take any responsibility. Remember when we repealed Obamacare — SIX TIMES — back when we knew Obama would veto our actions?”

The Republicans hated the president’s far-reaching health care bill and used it, successfully, to bolster its numbers in both houses of Congress, statehouses around the country, and then the White House. They made it perfectly clear that any member of Congress that undermined repeal should face defeat. Of course, the Democrats, who gave voters the legislation in the first place, but all the more so any Republican who ran against it, but could not get rid of it once in power. That will add up to many Republicans.

The objective of all those empty repeal votes was to embarrass Obama, not themselves.

In spite of GOP assurances of repeal, the House of Representatives has a large group of very conservative members who opposed the first attempt by the president that was often described as “Obamacare lite.” Around 30 found themselves in this group. This group opposed the president’s replacement for Obamacare because they believe it would permanently codify an “unconstitutional role” for the federal government when it comes to health care. It is highly unlikely that the grass root activists behind so many GOP victories had this bill in mind. There is around four in the Senate that disliked this bill for similar reasons.

Then there is an entirely moderate group in the House — around 20 — that opposed the legislation because they feel it went too far. It is funny, most of these same Republicans had no problem with the status quo when it came to health care over the years, but now they are embracing it as if they voted for it (none of them did, ironically). There are a few in the Senate that support their moderate brethren in the House.

How did the GOP find itself in a situation where the ticket to victory in elections has become a plague?

In all the many attempts to repeal over the years, the Republicans never offered a replacement. The objective of all those empty repeal votes was to embarrass Obama, not themselves. The GOP has known all along that there was no consensus when it came to replace, and had no intention to make that reality known to voters.

During that cold winter of being out of power and while raising millions to get members elected to repeal Obamacare, you would think someone — anyone — would start finding areas of agreement. Because they did not take this logical step, Republican really had only one logical choice once they took the White House and both Houses of Congress, which was to repeal first and replace later. Since that is what the voters saw before, it is exactly what they expected. However, that required a level of courage that few members of the GOP have. Taking away something that millions have gotten use to is a difficult task. I could probably list all of the members of the Senate willing to do that on one hand, maybe two. There are probably no more than a few dozen in the House willing to do that. Kevin Brady, the very influential chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, comes from the very conservative state of Texas and he made it clear that he could not support repeal alone (although he had no problem voting for that several times before when it did not matter).

I think Republican hypocrisy certainly played a role. In a very compelling article in the Daily Beast one reads about how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was saved by the socialized medicine afforded to every member of both Houses of Congress. The article notes, “Back in 1928, Congress passed a resolution creating the Office of the Attending Physician (OAP) at the Capitol to minister to the medical needs of its members. The OAP has since then provided basic medical care to senators and representatives, who pay only a modest annual fee—presently $503. The rest of the cost is covered by the taxpayers, and it is one item of federal spending that is never significantly cut.” During a physical afforded to McConnell, the senator learned he had a serious health crisis that demanded immediate attention. What an amazing benefit, no wonder members of Congress did not want Obamacare for themselves. I believe Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is the only member of either House to sign up for it just to say he felt he should be subject to the same laws as his constituents.

These same Republicans run for president with an endgame of getting federal matching funds, while lecturing voters on the immorality of being dependent on government. At some point, this type of thing is going to haunt them. I think that time has come. At this point, I would not be surprised if the GOP loses both Houses in 2018. Imagine what life will be like for Trump when there is no GOP majority to protect him from impeachment. Yes, the GOP spring looks like it will be measured in months, not years. Winter is around the corner for the GOP and in light of the current disarray, it will be a long one.

CONVERSATIONS