Republican Attempt to Repeal Obamacare Descends into Farce

Republicans did not expect they would have to make good on their promises — and now they can’t.

View of the United States Capitol in Washington DC in the early morning, January 15
View of the United States Capitol in Washington DC in the early morning, January 15 (DoD/William Lockwood)

Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare have descended into farce.

Politico reports that Senate Republicans don’t even want their latest bill — which would repeal the 2010 health reforms without replacing them — to become law.

“The substance of this is not what’s relevant,” said Bob Corker of Tennessee. “This a pathway to conference. That’s the only purpose in this.”

But there is no guarantee the House of Representatives will agree to a conference, which is not designed to write laws to begin with. It’s a process to iron out differences between similar bills passed by both chambers.

The reason Senate Republicans must resort to this is that they haven’t been able to unify their own behind a health-care bill, let alone attract Democratic support.

Republicans are divided

Leaders’ desperation to pass a repeal bill — any bill — has exhausted the patience of independent-minded senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. The former has called the latest effort a “disaster” and a “fraud”.

Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also resist repealing Obamacare without simultaneously enacting a replacement.

Purists on the right, like Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Utah’s Mike Lee, are critical for a different reason. They feel the current effort doesn’t go far enough in dismantling the Democratic health-care law.

This is no way to make law

The reason Republicans are in this mess is that they agitated against Obamacare for seven years without formulating, much less agreeing on, an alternative.

They did not expect Donald Trump to win the presidential election in November. Now that they are in power, they have to make good on their promises — and they can’t.

The House repeal-and-replace bill is a caricature of right-wing policy. It cuts both Medicaid, taking health care away from millions of low-income Americans, and taxes, leaving the wealthy better off.

The Senate hasn’t passed anything so atrocious. It hasn’t passed anything at all. What Americans like to call the greatest deliberative body in the world hasn’t even held hearings. There have been no committees, no amendments, no attempts at bipartisanship; none of the usual legislative processes which ensure that what eventually becomes law is broadly acceptable to most voters.

As Ezra Klein puts it at Vox, “Republicans are making life-or-death policy for millions of Americans with less care, consideration and planning than most households put into purchasing a dishwasher.”