The Senate gets squeezed over Obamacare

  • 18 July 2017
  • NormanL
The Senate gets squeezed over Obamacare

Senate Republican leaders have decided they will not move ahead with their health insurance reform legislation. The failed effort is already being called a major blow to the Trump agenda, and that isn't entirely wrong.

But the real losers in this round are congressional Republicans.

Trump's victory in November over Hillary Clinton caught them flat footed, without either a strategy or a concrete plan to repeal and replace Obamacare

Congressional Republicans, then, are the ones on the hook. They cannot head into the 2018 mid-term elections with nothing to show voters who gave them control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell understands this, and is scrambling to get something done:

“The Kentucky Republican said he planned to hold a vote in the coming days to take up the House-passed bill to replace the 2010 health law and then call up an amendment to eliminate major parts of Obamacare, such as the Medicaid expansion, insurance subsidies and fines for the employer and individual mandates. Republicans passed a similar bill to effectively repeal Obamacare in 2015 under reconciliation -- the fast-track budget procedure the GOP is using to thwart a Democratic filibuster -- but it was vetoed by President Barack Obama.

“McConnell added that the repeal-only bill is ‘what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015,’ but GOP lawmakers have voiced severe doubts that such a plan can win the 50 votes necessary this year given the uncertainty it would throw onto insurance markets. The 2015 vote was viewed as mostly symbolic at the time given Obama’s certain veto.

“But after his own caucus tanked McConnell’s attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously and at the prodding of the president, the GOP leader is going to force his caucus to go on the record on health care. If the Senate does vote to open debate on the House bill, which is not guaranteed, the repeal-only bill would be the first amendment. But senators would still be able to offer unlimited amendments to the bill, leading the GOP down an uncertain road once the process began.

It is an uncertain road. But McConnell is also putting the squeeze on his members. Some will balk. But McConnell will have forced them out into the effect, making them take the blame for any failure to repeal Obamacare.

It's risky. And it could get ugly. But this will be the only way for voters back home to see who Obamacare's Republican defenders really are.