Obamacare

Senate Republicans Warn: Maybe We Won't Pass a Health Care Bill at All

This is how the GOP treats their top legislative priorities.

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Gage Skidmore / Foter

After last November's election, congressional Republicans put repealing and replacing Obamacare at the top of their legislative agenda. This would fulfill the promise the party had been making from the moment the health care law passed in 2010.

Last week, the two GOP senators from Iowa admitted that any legislation would not fully repeal Obamacare. Now Senate Republicans are not certain they will pass any bill at all. It's a moment that reveals the lack of seriousness with which Republicans continue to treat one of their major political and policy priorities.

Vice President Mike Pence spent the weekend urging Republicans to pass a health care bill by the end of summer, but Senate Republicans are increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for any legislation to pass in the near future.

"There are some still saying that we'll vote before the August break. I have a hard time believing that," Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) told The Washington Post.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) suggested that Republicans might take a multi-prong approach that started with a "market stabilization" bill, followed by something more comprehensive. "To me, this may be a two-part process," he told the Wisconsin State Journal. "I would admit that's probably a minority view in the Republican Senate right now."

The most negative comments came from North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, who said, "It's unlikely that we will get a health care deal, which means that most of my time has been spent trying to figure out solutions to Iowa losing all of its insurers," Burr said the House plan was "dead on arrival" in the Senate, and predicted that no major legislation would pass in the upper chamber, saying, "I don't see a comprehensive health care plan this year."

Their comments come not long after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted that he didn't know how his chamber would put together the 50 votes necessary to pass a bill.

The problem for the Senate GOP is that party lawmakers remain divided on key components of any health care bill. Senate Republicans have indicated that they will scrap the legislation that passed in the House and start over, but no progress has been made. A Senate task force has been charged with crafting the outlines of a bill, yet at this point, one GOP aide tells The Hill, there is not even a basic framework in place, much less actual legislative language.

It is not too much of a stretch to say that at this point Senate Republicans do not merely disagree on the details. The fundamental problem is that they do not know what they want from a health care bill at all. (Similarly, the House version of the health care bill, which Republicans barely attempted to defend on the merits, suggests a deep confusion about how federal health policy works and what form it should take.)

It is still possible, of course, that Senate Republicans will eventually come together and pass a bill that overhauls Obamacare. After all, the House legislation crashed, and looked potntially lost, before eventually passing in a tight vote.

But it is far from certain that Senate Republicans will come together on a bill, and that they will then be able to negotiate a compromise with House Republicans to send to President Trump (or, as seems likely, force the House GOP to accept the Senate's version of the bill with no changes). That alone is remarkable.

Republicans spent the last seven years repeatedly promising to repeal and replace Obamacare at the first opportunity, while simultaneously insisting that the framework for a replacement mechanism could be worked out later.

To put it another way: The GOP plan on health care was always to figure it out later. It's later. They still haven't figured it out.

Now, predictably, that objective is in jeopardy because party lawmakers never settled on even the most cursory outlines of a replacement. And without a replacement at the ready, the already challenging politics of repeal are harder still. The defeatist bumbling we are seeing now confirms that the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare has always been missing a critical component: an actual plan to do either.

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  1. If I didn’t absolutely know better, I would almost be tempted to believe that the Republicans have no clue what they believe in much less how to accomplish anything. No wonder they fell under the sway of an incompetent, blustering, flim-flam man.

    1. Just republicans? Ha!

      DC is the land of I’ll believe whatever your dollar, or vote, wants me to believe.

    2. It’s just that for so long they only needed one belief: If President McBlackerson is for it, we’re agin’ it. They haven’t quite figured out how to deal with having the presidency yet, especially the noobs, which is an argument against term limits.

    3. Republicans want political jobs and a hand in the till. For that they need the same superstitious bigot, warmonger, prohibitionist, xenophobe vote that elected Herb Hoover, Richard Nixon and the Bush Dynasty. Until the Tea Party, Prohibition Party and KKKonsta2shun party activists wheelchair off to that big Depends Sale in the Sky (or people wake up and vote libertarian), collectivist spoiler votes will continue to dictate the Republican Party platform.

  2. Whenever the Dems get in power, it’s almost like they know it won’t last so they cram as much shit as possible before they get wiped out (like ObamaCare)

    when the GOP is in Power, they act like scared little kittens and never do anything.

    1. If the options are getting your shit pushed in or not, I prefer “not”.

    2. Doesn’t confiscating homes via asset forfeiture, wrecking the economy and jailing young people for life count for anything?

    3. The Demoncraps disgust me.
      The Republitards disgust me.
      As disgusting as Trump is, he may be an improvement. But he’s mired in shit.

  3. Whatever the GOP ends up with, it’s sure to result in women dying in the streets from the sniffles and paper cuts.

    1. And untreated rape.

  4. From the beginning, Republicans were making incompatible promises to businesses and enterprisers (contain costs), and pro-lifers and those with good employer insurance coverage (oppose any cost containment).

    1. Might turn out that Trump’s suggestion is the best: Let Obozocare die of it’s own weight.

      Either that, or repeal the whole damned thing and replace it with NOTHING.

  5. Lots of critters will be spending more time with their families in 2019.

    1. I bet it is fewer than you think. There are a few factors to are difficult to predict: voter turnout, whether or not the GOP’s strategy of blaming the media will work, and whether or not the Dems can field decent candidates.

  6. The most negative comments came from North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, who said, “It’s unlikely that we will get a health care deal, which means that most of my time has been spent trying to figure out solutions to Iowa losing all of its insurers,”

    It’s amazing how hard it is to pass healthcare reform while the fires of healthcare reform burn around you.

  7. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) suggested that Republicans might take a multi-prong approach that started with a “market stabilization” bill

    I think we’ve all had about enough of government attempts to “stabilize markets.” Please just go home already.

  8. It’s a moment that reveals the lack of seriousness with which Republicans continue to treat one of their major political and policy priorities.

    Or, you know, evidence that dealing with Obamacare was never a major political and policy priority, just campaign bullshit. Kinda like Trump’s “extreme vetting” plan that for some strange reason he’s unable to move forward with without a travel ban first, almost as if the travel ban is all the “extreme vetting” plan he’s really got. Or the Greenie’s insistence that they’re going to move forward with the ideals of the Paris Accords even if Trump pulls the US out – like they couldn’t have been doing that already for the last ten years without a “Mother May I” from Paris?

    1. My understanding is that the court order suspending President Trump’s “travel ban” also prohibits him from changing the standards for admitting people into the United States. So effectively he’s prohibited from engaging in any “extreme vetting” unless and until the order is lifted or overturned by SCOTUS.

      1. Doesn’t the INS already have wide latitude on immigration policy?

  9. Of course, “figuring it out later” was how Obamacare was passed in the first place. Which was why Oelosi aimed it needed to be passed to find out what is in it and why so much of the details were deferred to the executive branch.

    And the biggest thing is that the voters don’t know what they really want and many Republicans do not want to have to tell the voting public they cannot have their cake and eat it too.

  10. This would be just fine.
    Now repeal Ocare.

    1. Why? Be as specific as you possibly can.

    2. Stupid comment.
      Without ACA, and without any ACA replacement, you DON’T HAVE A FEDERAL HEALTH INSURANCE FRAMEWORK. Nothing to tie private insurance to Medicare or Medicaid. Nothing to put uniform definitions and federal tax rules on health insurance. And very little to stop the very few sellers from pillaging the millions of buyers.

      R’s have had SEVEN FREAKING YEARS to develop a framework that might actually address the key requirements of federal health insurance rules. And… Nothing. Nada. Bupkis. Squat. They are actually WORSE than the D’s in this exercise, which is not something I say lightly. The so-called free market won’t fix this. Because the handful of gigantic insurers distort the market for their exclusive benefit when given the chance. And people die.

  11. RE: Senate Republicans Warn: Maybe We Won’t Pass a Health Care Bill at All
    This is how the GOP treats their top legislative priorities.

    “Last week, the two GOP senators from Iowa admitted that any legislation would not fully repeal Obamacare. Now Senate Republicans are not certain they will pass any bill at all.”

    Good news, bad news.
    The bad news is the republicans would not fully repeal Obamacare. (Gee, what a surprise!)
    The good news is the republicans are not certain they will pass any bill at all, as if the healthcare industry isn’t regulated enough.
    More bad news.
    The republicans are too stupid to realize deregulating the healthcare industry will only lower premiums and increase services due to competition.
    Please explain to me again the difference between the two parties.

    1. The republicans are too stupid to realize deregulating the healthcare industry will only lower premiums and increase services due to competition.

      But that’s the precise talking point on all their lips. The problem is you’re too stupid to realize it’s a horseshit free-market fairy tale talking point that has no factual support whatsoever.

      The difference between the parties is one has become a nihilistic quasi-anarchist shit tornado and the other still actually believes to some degree in public service and pragmatic action to achieve it.

      1. So, refresh my memory.
        How’s England NHS doing lately?

        1. It will be doing better if they are allowed to take your property when you die.

        2. It’s like the most popular institution in the country. A few issues, but nothing’s perfect.

          Now let’s unpack your implication. “Problems X and Y” of this single-payer system (even though it’s less expensive and without question more efficient and universal than the American version) mean we must, without any alternative possibility leave at least some people to die and/or incur social costs indirectly for lack of ability to pay, here in the richest country on earth.

          The logical end result of the crap you believe is throwing all old people off of Medicare, and you believe that as the philosophically best option, regardless of the political issues. You must, right?

          1. “It’s like the most popular institution in the country.”

            Source?

              1. And it’s freaking healthcare! Easy to complain about, and nobody wants to be there. Rather remarkable.

          2. Remind me how many people died waiting in line at the Phoenix VA…

    2. The Red looter party wants electricity to remain legal while they ban everything else. The Blue looters want to ban everything including electricity. Read the platforms. That is the ONLY deliverable difference.

  12. Half the country is too stupid to appreciate what the other half knows is right, so the only choice really is to ram it down their throats so they can learn how great it all is.

    1. Welcome to democracy. It’s like a market, but the products are ideas.

      Like you I am in an extreme minority on frozen pizza. I can’t find a one that comes with anchovies and feta. Not one. Therefore, the frozen pizza mafia is evil and must be destroyed from within. Because I’m that special and my ideas count the most.

      1. While I am generally opposed to government mandates, I am all for the pizza with anchovies and feta mandate.

      2. Or, you could just buy your own fucking feta and anchovies and put them on yourself…

  13. NO! Please B’rer Elephant, skin me alive, but don’t throw me in that brier patch!

  14. How many times did the Republicans vote to repeal health care under Obama? Wait, you’re telling me that was just a political stunt??? /sarc

    Republicans owe their majority, and partially the Presidency, to promises of repealing Obamacare. Forget about public opinion polls, those polls were settled in the last two elections. Were things really that bad before we had Obamacare? Put it to a vote now, so that the country knows who to throw out of office in 2018, 2020, 2022…

    Remind me again how both parties aren’t for big government again?

  15. If as the Republicans say Obamacare is the worst and most dangerous plan to fix the health care crises ever devised, why haven’t they created a better bill. They’ve had 7 years to do it and the only thing they can come up with is a tax cut for the rich, some savings for the young and healthy and to “hell with everybody else.”

  16. The whole thing was doomed, of course, once the fucks added the words “and replace”, conceding the idea that there should be a Federally-designed healthcare payment system. At that point, it just becomes a question of choosing your flavor of shit sandwich.

  17. It’s because Obamacare *was* the Republican bill. It was the one thing they could do to entrench insurance companies in healthcare. Dems would/will eventually want single payer or otherwise universal with a public option. But they treated Obamacare so harshly that when they finally got to the plate, they had jack. Short-sightedness to say the least.

  18. The article assumes republicans oppose the government plan. It was good politics to rail against it yet in 2012 their nominee was Romney the father of this plan.

    Just like the Patriot Act when democrat decried the attacks on freedom yet renewed it as is when they controlled all 3 branches of government.

    Yes we have a one Party system, they just play the population for their own amusement.

  19. Voters will be pissed if they do not follow through, guess reelection doesn’t matter much after all.

  20. Well, of course they won’t. Or, maybe they will, but only if they can time it such that whatever they produce can be blamed on someone else.

    Republicans have had 8 years to come up with anything. By their (in)actions they have clearly admitted that they can’t, because, if nothing else, Obamacare was engineered to solve a problem: more and better healthcare for more people. The only thing that will better solve this problem would move closer and closer to the systems that have solved this problem: those in place in all democratic socialist economies of Europe (whether single-payer or hybrid systems).

    The best motive the Republicans can offer for doing anything about healthcare in this country is ideology. But even “libertarians” don’t want to say out loud that they don’t care about solving the problem. Instead, just like taking a shit in the morning for them, it’s about “freedom”. Whatever.

    You see, real health economists created Obamacare. But politically savvy ones. They knew that they could not politically get the real solution like they have in European democratic socialist countries, but they could put a system out there that, however flawed, would put the solving of the problem in full view.

    So now we get to watch the beautiful spectacle of “libertarians” having to squirm and shout “freedom!” louder in the hope of changing the subject again from problem solving to feeling free.
    And the opportunist wing of the right (the larger component) simply squirm.

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