Mitch McConnell, his face frozen in that permanent scowl, reacted angrily to the defeat of the Republicans’ so-called repeal and replace maneuver to end the Affordable Care Act. The Kentucky Republican who is the majority “leader” in the Senate couldn’t get the votes he needed to pass a partial repeal, with a few Republicans defecting, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who returned to Washington despite a brain cancer diagnosis.
McConnell’s rhetoric in defeat was despicable and deceptive. He cast the Republican effort to dismantle the ACA – President Obama’s signature achievement – as an attempt to “help those suffering under Obamacare.”
That’s a lie. Obamacare has made it possible for more than 20 million Americans to get health insurance. It’s prohibited insurance companies from refusing to insure people with pre-existing conditions. It’s allowed young people to stay on their parents’ insurance to the age of 26. It has become popular, which is something the Republicans didn’t figure on as they kept campaigning, from President Trump on down the line, on their promise to do away with “Obamacare.”
But their offerings of substitutes would have left tens of millions of people without health insurance and would have given the wealthy huge tax breaks by cutting Medicaid. Their plan was essentially a return to the status quo, with millions and millions of Americans left to the mercies of the free market insurance system. McConnell and others who have talked about “European health care” and “socialized medicine” have simply demonstrated they’re out of touch with constituents, some of whom have been shouting at them at town hall meetings to protect their health insurance.
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So Obamacare survives, and because of it, more Americans will survive.
President Trump, who cares nothing about the details of this or any issue, continues to cheer for the “failure” of Obamacare, and doubtless he and Republicans in Congress will seek to undermine it with funding tricks and legislative maneuvering. Trump has this disgusting and simplistic idea that if the ACA fails, Democrats will come crawling to him to make a deal. But Trump’s hand is not strong, and the chaos on his own staff coupled with increasing pressures from the independent investigation of the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia are likely to change the face of Washington in 2018. That’s when Republicans up for re-election will have little to stand on except for their failures.
The Affordable Care Act has worked for millions, and will continue to do so if Republicans will leave it alone or, dare one make the bipartisan case, fine tune it to make it work better. The vote on McConnell’s secretive, last minute “skinny repeal” should be a lesson that while Trump’s angry base may still cheer anything he says punctuated with words of hate for President Obama, the mainstream is moving further and further away from President Trump. Republicans who want to stay in Congress better do the same.