Obamacare 2.0 Down for the Count as Senate Republicans Square off Against McConnell

By Janice Barlow

Republicans in the Senate today released a draft of what their committee version of the AHCA bill looks like. This version has many issues, not the least of which is that Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority leader, went into lockdown mode during the writing of the draft and excluded some of the members. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Mike Lee, (R-UT) were among those on the committee who were actually not allowed to see the draft of the bill until today. Reasons for committee members to not only be excluded from participating in drafting the proposal, but prevented from reading it, are unknown at this time, as McConnell has made no public statement. It is also puzzling that the excluded members of the committee kept this fact secret until yesterday.

In an interview on the Mark Levin Show yesterday, Ted Cruz attacked the members of the committee who shut out the rest, liking them to Democrats in their behavior. Cruz also had concerns about two very real possibilities regarding the outcomes of a Senate vote. If the draft doesn’t get significant revisions in the Senate in this short week before going to a vote (which could also involve some heated debate on the Senate floor), Cruz foresees:

… One bad outcome is we fail to actually repeal Obamacare; we fail to honor our promise – that’s a terrible outcome,” Ted Cruz told Mark Levin. “There’s an even worse outcome, which is we pass a bill that is entitled Obamacare repeal, but it doesn’t in fact repeal Obamacare, and that premiums keep skyrocketing and the problems keep getting worse. And I think, if we do that, that’s how you get a speaker Pelosi and a Leader Chuck Schumer, where the voters say, ‘The heck with all of you. None of you stand for anything.’

Just this afternoon, Rand Paul spoke out about the large gap between where the Republican establishment has landed with the draft, saying it was about 90% Obamacare, and how he would not vote for it until it was down to 20%. This is not the full repeal that Trump had promised to the demands of many Republican constituents. It also is so far-reaching, that it seems unlikely that this gap can be bridged in a week’s time, if ever.

It now appears obvious that McConnell et al knew that by making the draft opaque and sticking almost all of Obamacare in it with the exception of deep cuts in Medicaid funding, that things would be his way or no way. What Ted Cruz did not say out loud was how bad the GOP itself would look in the event that the bill doesn’t pass in the Senate. Obamacare would be Barack Obama’s permanent legacy, and the Trump administration would have failed miserably in one of the biggest proposed changes made from the day he descended the escalator to announce his candidacy in June of 2015. His anger could carry over into a Tweet storm the likes of which we haven’t seen yet. He would blame the GOP Senators who vote Nay on the bill and single them out. It is a Trump tactic.

Will this inevitable pressure hanging over the heads of GOP senators force them to cave on this bill and vote for it? Will some say that it’s not what they wanted but it’s better than Obamacare? That would be a major blow to conservatism and cost those Senators much support, which they certainly need right now. Rand Paul will not back down. He’s not up for re-election at the 2018 midterms and has no concerns for consequences or threats. At the moment, Ted Cruz is running unopposed in a primary situation in Texas and it should remain that way unless Trump tries to primary him by having a rival step in and seeing to it that the person is funded. Texas loves Ted Cruz. Cruz wants nothing to do with a health care plan remotely like Obamacare. He shouldn’t relent on this one.

Dean Heller, (R-Nev) is another senator who is set to vote No on this bill. He isn’t likely to change his mind if more Obamacare is removed, because he is more supportive of Obamacare than most Republicans. Ron Johnson, (R-WI) and Mike Lee also firmly stated that they will vote No on the bill as it stands today.  All that is needed are two No votes from Republican senators for this bill to go down in history as an epic failure. And it should in its current form because it is just Obamacare dressed up in Orange.

Read the full draft of the healthcare bill here.

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