Their timidity on Obamacare repeal has made them a national laughingstock.
The GOP holds majorities in both houses of Congress, the president is a Republican, and only a tiny minority of the voters support Obamacare in its present form. It should be possible, under these propitious circumstances, for the Republicans to honor their pledge to repeal the rapidly imploding “reform” law. Yet the party that ended slavery and successfully championed women’s suffrage, both in the face of violent Democratic opposition, can’t muster the courage to repeal even the worst provisions of the Affordable Care Act. This cowardice has now inspired the law’s apologists to openly mock the GOP and President Trump.
In fact, the man whose name is inextricably linked to the failed health-care law recently derided Trump for the failure to get repeal done during his first 100 days. CNN reported, “Obama noted to an audience in midtown Manhattan that ‘the Affordable Care Act has never been more popular — and it’s more popular than the current president.’” This, it will come as no surprise, is another of the former president’s trademark whoppers. Fox News just released a poll three days ago showing that only 16 percent of registered voters support Obamacare as is, while 57 percent of voters want it fully or partially repealed.
This renders the diffidence of the GOP even more inexplicable. And it is, indeed, fear that is causing some House Republicans to waver. Now that the conservatives of the Freedom Caucus have finally come around, some members of the moderate “Tuesday Group” are dragging their feet in the belief that their constituents will punish them if they vote for repeal. At Real Clear Politics, James Arkin quotes Oklahoma congressman Tom Cole thus: “Some of our colleagues forget that the Tuesday Group is the group that holds the toughest seats for us. They really are the difference between us being the majority and the minority.”
There are two obvious problems with this line of reasoning. First, there is no point in having a GOP majority in the House if the Republicans are too pusillanimous to use the accompanying power. Second, every member of the GOP — including the timorous members of the Tuesday Group — ran in 2016 on repealing Obamacare. Thus, the real “difference between being the majority and the minority” is inexorably tied to their willingness to honor that pledge. If Congressman Cole believes the current Republican majority in the House will survive the failure to rid us of this turbulent law, he should stop skipping his medication.
As Paul Ryan put it when he was re-elected speaker in January, “The people have given us unified government. And it wasn’t because they were feeling generous. It’s because they wanted results.” But due to infighting between GOP factions, primarily the Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group, over the American Health Care Act (AHCA) — the results have been underwhelming. All of these characters voted for a repeal bill just as imperfect as AHCA when they were up for re-election and knew it would be vetoed. They’re suddenly less courageous now that we have a Republican President ready and willing to sign it into law.
And that Republican President is beginning to lose patience with internecine squabbling in the House. Trump had urged the House leadership to bring an amended version of the bill to the floor for a vote before the symbolic “100-day” milestone came and went, but there still weren’t enough sure votes to guarantee passage. The Hill reported Trump made it clear at a Pennsylvania rally on Saturday evening that he would be less than pleased, if it continues much longer: “I’ll be so angry at Congressman Kelly and Congressman Marino and all of our congressmen in this room if we don’t get that damn thing passed quickly.”
But the president is doing more than threatening congressmen. In an attempt to assuage the concerns of cringing Tuesday Group members who are worried about the fate of people with pre-existing conditions, Trump went on Face the Nation yesterday and guaranteed that AHCA takes care of such patients: “We’ve set up a pool for the pre-existing conditions so that the premiums can be allowed to fall.” Ironically, every Obamacare replacement plan proposed by the GOP has had a mechanism for helping patients with pre-existing conditions. Betsy McCaughey explained how they work using the state of Alaska as an example:
In Alaska, the burden of caring for 500 chronically ill patients was making Obamacare unaffordable for all 23,000 Alaskans in the individual market. They were facing 40% premium hikes for 2017. To halt the crisis, in June state authorities created a separate “high-risk” pool for the sickest people, with the cost shouldered by all Alaska taxpayers, instead of being thrust on buyers in the individual insurance market. As a result, premium hikes were kept to single digits for 2017. It’s a microcosm of what congressional Republicans propose for all 50 states.
Nonetheless, knowing that the voters have been repeatedly misled on this subject and that the vagaries of public opinion are disproportionately important to the timid Tuesday Group, the president has thrown them a sop. Will it work? According to Tracy Gore, who recently wrote to the Daily Signal about House Republicans: “The GOP is a bunch of spineless wimps who are continually outplayed by the bully ‘illiberals.’” The evidence suggests that Ms. Gore’s assessment of the GOP is spot on. One hopes they will grow a collective spine and repeal Obamacare. Otherwise, the Democrats win in 2018. Not an amusing prospect.
Rep. Tom Cole (C-Span)