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Senate health care bill on life support

Sen. McCain’s medical leave gives the fake Obamacare-repeal a stay of execution

Matthew Vadum author image /

Senate Republicans’ health care reform legislation that purports to repeal and replace failing Obamacare is currently on life support.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has tried repeatedly but failed in his efforts to bring the proposed “Better Care Act” to the Senate floor for a vote. And he won’t be able to move forward with a vote this week despite his recent promise to do so.

McConnell is using the absence of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) from the nation’s capital as an excuse to put an important procedural vote on the legislation on hold. Moving forward with the bill would allow amendments to be made from the Senate floor.

Surgeons in McCain’s home state performed a “minimally invasive” procedure on the 80-year-old lawmaker to take out an almost 2-inch blood clot over one of his eyes and said the operation went “very well.” He is expected to remain in Arizona at least through this week. A pathology report on the clot will soon become available which will influence the duration of McCain’s hospital stay. McCain has beaten melanoma three times, according to medical records he made public during his 2008 presidential run.

“While John is recovering, the Senate will continue our work on legislative items and nominations, and will defer consideration of the Better Care Act,” McConnell said.

McConnell’s legislative horse-trading doesn’t seem to have moved the needle in favor of the bill. He added an amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would allow inexpensive health care plans lacking some of Obamacare’s mandates to be sold as long as insurance companies continued to offer Obamacare-compliant plans.

The Congressional Budget Office has yet to complete an analysis of the impact of the Cruz amendment on premiums and insurance coverage.

The latest version of the bill “would also leave in place some of Obamacare’s tax increases, plow $70 billion more into lowering premiums, allow pre-tax dollars to pay for insurance premiums and deliver $45 billion to fight opioid addiction,” Politico reported Sunday.

In introducing the Senate plan last month, McConnell said Obamacare “isn’t working, by nearly any measure it has failed, and no amount of 11th hour reality-denying or buck-passing by Democrats is going to change the fact that more Americans are going to get hurt unless we do something.”

“From 2013 to 2017, premiums have on average doubled in the vast majority of states on the federal exchange. … This year, 70 percent of American counties have had little or no choice of insurers under Obamacare. Next year, at least 44 counties are projected to have no choice at all — meaning, yet again, Americans could be thrown off their plans in states like Missouri, and Ohio, and Wisconsin.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) acknowledged Thursday that GOP leaders don’t have the minimum 50 votes right now but said, “We’re making good progress.” There is little wiggle room on the measure because Republicans hold only 52 seats and cannot count on getting any votes from the 48 senators on the Democrat side of the aisle.

“The only thing more difficult than peace between Israel and the Palestinians is healthcare,” President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.) say they plan to vote against the legislation. Republicans such as Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and his home-state governor John Kasich (R) are putting parochial concerns ahead of the national interest, claiming they are concerned about the bill because it phases out Medicaid expansion.

Paul, who wants taxpayer-friendly, market-based reforms, said on “Fox News Sunday” that McConnell does not have the votes he needs to pass the Senate measure. “I don’t think right now he does,” Paul said.

Even if McCain were present this week for a procedural vote on whether to begin formal debate on the legislation, such a motion would still likely fail, Paul and Collins seemed to suggest.

“It would be extremely close,” Collins told ABC’s “This Week.” “I would estimate that there are about eight to 10 Republican senators who have deep concerns, but how this would all translate out I’m not certain. And I never underestimate Leader McConnell’s skills.”

Paul said Republicans need to focus on keeping their promise to repeal Obamacare, a pledge that has won them successive elections.

“But this bill keeps most of the Obamacare taxes, keeps most of the regulations, keeps most of the subsidies,” he said. “And creates something that Republicans have never been for, and that’s a giant insurance bailout superfund.”

Paul repeated his proposal that Obamacare first be repealed and then replaced later. Many Senate lawmakers, including Republicans, are opposed to that approach, although President Trump is reportedly receptive to the idea.

“What I’ve suggested to the president … if this comes to an impasse, I think if the president jumps into the fray and says ‘Look guys, you promised to repeal it, let’s just repeal what we can agree to,'” Paul said. “And then we can continue to try to fix, replace or whatever has to happen afterwards.”

Republicans shouldn’t prop up Obamacare, he said.

“The death spiral of Obamacare is unwinding the whole system, and it will continue to unwind, but I don’t think Republicans should put their name on this key part of Obamacare,” Paul said.

“And then we’re going to be blamed for the rest of the unwinding of Obamacare. It’s a really bad political strategy and it’s not going to fix the problem.”

Like the House Republicans’ health care bill which barely passed the House on a 217 to 213 vote on May 4, the Senate bill tinkers around the edges of the Obamacare system. The Senate measure bails out Obamacare temporarily and makes the health care system worse. Obamacare itself was designed specifically to bring about the collapse of the health care insurance system and usher in a sclerotic European-style single-payer system.

Both the Senate and House bills leave in place the ban that prevents insurers from denying coverage based on preexisting medical conditions. This preexisting conditions ban, as it is called, will sooner or later bankrupt the system. This will give left-wingers the political ammunition they need to blame insurance companies for the government-caused collapse and move for a total government takeover of the health care system.

Republican leaders want to keep Obamacare around so they can continue running against it. Politicians do, after all, need villains, real or imagined, to get out the vote. Many Republican lawmakers, despite their rhetoric, chafe at the idea of getting rid of the program because it gives them power over one-sixth of the national economy.

“If we sit on our hands, families will continue to suffer,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday. “And if we let this opportunity to move beyond Obamacare pass us by, what other options will there be?”

McConnell is using this hard-sell approach because he knows his bill is garbage and doesn’t really want to repeal Obamacare.

The Washington swamp is resisting being drained.

This article first appeared at FrontPageMag.

The Author

Matthew Vadum

The author of Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers (WND Books, 2011), Vadum writes and speaks widely on ACORN and other…