Today the Senate passed, by the margin of one vote, a motion to proceed with debate on a new bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. This is coming days after the President came out and said that he was willing to let Obamacare just fail on its own.
We are six months into the Trump Presidency and the results are a bit underwhelming for Trump supporters. That’s not to say the man hasn’t accomplished anything, as he seems to be tightening down on immigration, getting the ball rolling on the wall, deregulating and whatnot. But the President himself has placed a great deal of importance on the efforts to do away with Obamacare. He was an early opponent of it and spent a lot of his campaign promising a swift repeal effort.
Hysterical About Healthcare
I cannot say enough about how important this repeal is to Trump’s support base. The prospect of repealing Obamacare has been a carrot dangled in front of the faces of GOP voters ever since it was enacted, and going back on campaign promises is never a good look.
And now that those promises are made, Trump and the Republicans have to own anything that goes wrong with Obamacare in the future; we know this because Trump had to come out and say that he wasn’t going to own the consequences if they can’t get it repealed. The “there’s nothing I can do!” excuse doesn’t work so well when you’re literally the most powerful man on Earth.
But the danger of not repealing goes a bit deeper than the real-life consequences of Obamacare. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, the issue of Obamacare is just as much about the legacy of Barack Obama as it is about health policy, especially to President Trump.
Trump’s catapult onto the national political stage happened as a result of his vehement opposition to Barack Obama (on the grounds that, among other things, he must have been born in Kenya cause he has a funny sounding name). I think he would be petty enough to want to repeal Obamacare just to remove a part of Obama’s legacy (he literally said he didn’t care what the replacement was), and I think there are voters that are ideological enough to want to repeal it out of principle.
The Senate is essentially back to square one on healthcare. The House healthcare bill will be their jumping-off point, and they’ll still have to pass it on a razor thin majority, so the bill can easily be held hostage by one or two maverick senators who are really committed to a certain provision being included in the bill.
The Obamacare repeal debacle (the Obamacabacle, if you will) has been so well publicized that constituents may be able to scare a couple of senators into defecting (again), at least temporarily to get whatever change made that they want.
I believe the result of this squeeze by the constituents will result in a bunch of strange compromises. For every senator that thinks about pulling out because of harrowing CBO estimates, there’s another that’s thinking about pulling out because they’re committed to ending the protections for people with preexisting conditions.
I couldn’t possibly speculate as to how weird the final bill will look, but I can’t imagine that it will look very normal, given a) how badly the GOP needs to pass this and b) how badly the GOP needs to not totally obliterate American health policy. A quick look at the bill that got through the House raises a lot of questions as to whether A and B are compatible at all.