Friday, March 3, 2017

The House GOP's Obamacare replacement bill

The House GOP's super-secret replacement bill.  It's so cute how they think they matter.

Actually, they kind of do matter, in a strange way.  No matter what bill they pass, and they probably will pass some form of bill, it has minimal chance of becoming law.  Why?  For the same reason that the Senate threw the House Democrats' version of Obamacare in the garbage in 2010.  The Senate kind of looks at the House the way that a 12-year-old looks at a 10-year-old:  with contempt based on delusions of world-weary wisdom.  Also, the 12-year-old is bigger, and can bully the 10-year-old.

The House version of the bill won't really go anywhere.  It is symbolic, but it is already a mess, and not just the symbolic mess because of the secrecy.  Rep. Mark Meadows is the chair of the Freedom Caucus (basically, the Tea Partiers, but the "Tea Party Caucus" was a mess because it was founded by... hang on while I swoon... Michele Bachmann).  Meadows is already unhappy with what he has heard.  If Meadows doesn't like what he is hearing, he will want the bill to move right.

Now, think through the coalition politics.  If nothing can pass the House without going hard right to get Meadows on board, which really might be true given the dynamics of the House and the fact that the Freedom Caucus has an all-or-nothing mentality, what would they say to Collins-Cassidy?  That'd probably be a no, there, good buddy.  Now, Meadows could understand that this is purely symbolic, and could therefore simply demand purity on the symbolic bill, while being willing to compromise on the real deal, knowing that the actual bill comes later when the House and Senate reconcile, but that is giving an awful lot of credit for intelligence and willingness to compromise to someone who is clearly otherwise an intransigent fuckwit.  (Sorry.  I should use John Boehner's word: "knucklehead.")

Rather, this points to the basic underlying problem of coalitions that I have noted before.  Repeal won't happen without replace because Collins, Murkowski and Paul (!) have said so.  A replacement bill must satisfy Collins, Cassidy (co-sponsors) and Murkowski, along with the House Freedom Caucus.  If the House Freedom Caucus isn't even satisfied with the clearly symbolic bill that everyone should have known wasn't going anywhere, then it is hard to see how they get on the same page with Collins and Murkowski.

Democrats passed Obamacare because the left gave up a lot.  They never considered single-payer.  They dropped the public option immediately.  They considered lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare, and dropped that because, even though Lieberman supported it previously, he stopped supporting it when he found out that Anthony Weiner liked the idea (note that this was before all the dick-pics).  Democrats moved right, and started with a plan based on Romney's Massachusetts plan, which was itself based on the Heritage Foundation's response to the Clintons' proposal from 1993-4.  Liberals balked.  Some, like Dennis Kucinich, almost voted no.  Sanders continued to whine throughout the primary campaign about how nothing of any consequence ever really happened, although to be fair, Sanders always whines.

If the Republicans followed the Democratic model of legislative bargaining, they could pass something.  It would just require throwing the Freedom Caucus under the bus and letting Collins run the show.  Republicans, under the advice of Frank Luntz, called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, "Obamacare," because it polled badly under that moniker.  Really, though, it should be called, "Baucuscare."  Why?  The person with the most influence, by my estimation, was Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (not a liberal).  If the Republicans really wanted a replacement, they'd just tell the Freedom Caucus to take a stiff drink and vote for Collins-Cassidy.  The fact that Meadows won't even support the symbolic thing that Ryan is throwing together, though, really suggests that the GOP still can't bridge the gap.

What will happen?  Don't count them out yet, but if I had to bet right now, the odds are leaning somewhat against a repeal.  These days, though, would it really be so crazy if Congress passed a total repeal of all spending on healthcare?  I mean, yes, it would be crazy, but compared to the Russia stuff?  Really?

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