A bill focused on buttressing the nation’s insurance marketplaces will be needed if the full-fledged Republican effort to repeal much of President Barack Obama’s health care law fails, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday. It was one of his most explicit acknowledgments that his party’s top-priority drive to erase much of Obama’s landmark 2010 statutes might fall short.
The remarks by McConnell, R-Ky., also implicitly meant that to show progress on health care, Republicans controlling the White House and Congress might have to negotiate with Democrats. While the current, wide-ranging GOP health care bill — which McConnell is still hoping to push through the Senate — has procedural protections against a Democratic Senate filibuster, a subsequent, narrower measure would not and would take 60 votes to pass.
The existing bill would fail if just three of the 52 Republicans vote no, since all Democrats oppose it. McConnell was forced to cancel a planned vote on the measure last week after far more Republicans than that objected, and he’s been spending the Independence Day recess studying possible changes that might win over GOP dissidents.
“If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur,” McConnell said at a Rotary Club lunch in this deep-red rural area in southern Kentucky. He made the comment after being asked if he envisioned needing bipartisan cooperation to replace Obama’s law.
“No action is not an alternative,” McConnell said. “We’ve got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state.”
The problem of course is that GOP senators will lose to Democrats if they pass Trumpcare, but they will be primaried out of a career if they pass a "fix" to Obamacare. It's Republicans in the Senate who are being held responsible to and for Mitch's hostage crisis, along with what Mitch hopes are enough Democrats to make this a "bipartisan" bill. Steve M. sees the obvious trap for the Dems here:
Let's say Republicans give up on repeal, then invite Democrats to negotiate on a bipartisan bill to save the system. At that point, why would Republicans have a motivation to ensure the system can still work well? Now they'd have someone to blame for failure. A year from now, the various Trumpcare bills will be down the memory hole. The Republican narrative -- probably persuasive to GOP voters -- will be "We invited Democrats to the bargaining table, and this was the outcome."
I know the conventional wisdom is that Republicans now own health care, because every voter knows they control the White House and Congress. But Democrats are quite visibly on the sidelines now. If they join in the talks, can't the GOP message machine assign them a disproportionate share of the blame for the results? I know McConnell seems now to be much less of a tactical genius than we thought he was a month ago, but I think he still might salvage a winning (i.e., opposition-bashing) message from this.
Salvage? As with Gorsuch, Mitch has already won. In fact, the message will be "Democrats forced us into this mess that they created. We tried to fix it, they blocked it. Now you're stuck with this failing Obamacare program for good."
Even better, Trump will be sabotaging Obamacare through the White House, and running against his own party. Republican voters will side with Trump on this. The real message will be "we need more Republicans in Congress!"
The press will go along too. It'll be the Medicare doc fix/AMT fix/debt ceiling kabuki all over again, and it'll be Obama's fault.
But we only get to this point if Dems play along. I'm betting they will: Mitch is all but saying that if they don't go along, they will let Obamacare collapse and people will die as a direct result. Mitch doesn't give a damn. Democrats do, so they will give in. Real lives are on the line here. In the end, Dems won't have a choice.
The bottom line is that Obamacare will stumble along year after year, with a permanent bomb strapped to it, and one Democrats know Mitch and the GOP will detonate and kill millions if they don't obey.
It's happened before.
It will happen again. Democrats still haven't figured out that they only way to beat McConnell is not to play his game. Last time, it cost us a Supreme Court seat. This time it will cost us Obama's legacy and probably far, far worse.