WASHINGTON – It may have been the biggest news day dominated by Obamacare since Democrats passed the so-called “Affordable Care Act” over the protests of united Republicans in 2009.
It didn’t come in a vote. It came in a whimper – with three Senate Republican women announcing they would oppose Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan for a straight-up vote to repeal Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation, which has resulted in a dwindling pool of insurers offering consumers offering health insurance and at skyrocketing prices.
President Trump’s reaction was strong.
“Let Obamacare fail,” he said at the White House. “It’ll be a lot easier, and I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it.”
But three Republican senators owned it yesterday.
Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, each said they would not support a motion to proceed on the efforts to repeal without a ready-made replacement. McConnell was left without support for what has been called Plan C – the repeal and replace vote.
Just last year, two of the three – Capito and Murkowski – voted to approve the exact same bill. All three campaigned and won elections to their seats after saying they would repeal the legislation.
None of the senators whose stances led to the collapse of the party’s efforts Monday and Tuesday are up for re-election in 2018.
Vice President Mike Pence joined Trump in criticizing Congress Tuesday for failing to advance one of the administration’s major legislative goals, seeming to portray allowing the current law to remain in place as untenable.
“Inaction is not an option,” Pence said in remarks to the National Retail Federation before the repeal-only plan, too, appeared to fail.
“Congress needs to step up. Congress needs to do their job, and Congress needs to do their job now.”
Advocates of repeal say it’s the best course because it would result in a free-market approach to health-care insurance that was working better than Obamacare – which drove up costs to consumers, resulted in fewer choices and more government spending.
“Repealing Obamacare and starting from scratch will likely result in a far more free-market replacement bill than the one recently considered by the Senate – especially if the future replacement bill includes Medicaid block grants, giving more power and control over the program to the states,” said Peter Ferrara of the Heartland Institute.
“State-run uninsurable risk pools established for covering pre-existing conditions should also be emphasized in future legislation, rather than guaranteed issue or community rating. The repeal would kill far more in taxes, spending, regulations, mandates, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, and everything else so wretched and oppressive about Obamacare.”
McConnell, for his part, has not given up on the idea of a straight-up vote on repeal next week.
“For the information of all senators, at the request of the president [Trump] and vice president [Pence] and after consulting with our members, we will have the vote on the motion to proceed to the Obamacare repeal bill early next week,” McConnell said from the Senate floor on Tuesday night.
The Senate is expected to vote on whether or not to take up the House-passed health-care bill, which is being used for any action in the upper chamber. If it is successful, McConnell would offer the Obamacare repeal proposal as an amendment to that legislation.
“For seven years, the Republicans pass bills to repeal Obamacare, send ’em to Obama, who vetoes ’em,” said Rush Limbaugh after the announcements of defections by three Republicans.
“Every campaign year, they promised to do it for real if they’re given the House, then given the Senate, then given the White House. They’re given all three, and now can’t repeal Obamacare, won’t repeal Obamacare. What’s the point of voting Republican? Do these people know what is going to become of their party if this actually happens?”