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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

 

ACA repeal advancing to the rear

by Tom Sullivan

How many times Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare is a matter of dispute, but they have been vowing to and failing at it for seven years. Their streak may continue. Huffington Post:

Anxiety about repealing Obamacare without a replacement got a lot more visible in the U.S. Senate on Monday evening, as a half-dozen Republican senators called publicly for slowing down the process.

It’s not clear how strongly these senators feel about it, or whether they are willing to defy party leadership over how and when efforts to repeal Obamacare proceed.

But at least three other GOP senators have now expressed reservations about eliminating the Affordable Care Act without first settling on an alternative. That brings the total to nine ― well more than the three defections it would take to deprive Republicans of the majority they would likely need to get repeal through Congress. And the restlessness isn’t confined to the Senate. Members of the House Freedom Caucus on Monday evening issued their own call for slowing down the repeal process.
Uh-oh.

The "repeal" vote in whatever form that might take was supposed to occur before the end of January. Now it may be pushed out until March, Bloomberg reports:
Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee, Rob Portman of Ohio, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska offered an amendment Monday to the budget resolution that would extend the target date for the committees to write an Obamacare repeal bill to March 3 from Jan. 27.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York appeared last night on MSNBC's "All In." The Hill reports:
“We’ve told our Republican colleagues, if you repeal it, you own it,” he told host Chris Hayes. "There are a lot of good things in the [Affordable Care Act]. They’re trying to find a way to repeal the ACA and keep all those good things.”
Schumer added, “They’re in real trouble and now they’re squirming and squirming.”

Over at Naked Capitalism, Yves Smith observes:
But it appears that regardless of what Trump is willing to do regarding Obamacare, he seems cognizant of the risk of creating disarray and being blamed for it…a concern he oddly does not have on other issues. It’s likely that this caution is purely cynical: that he understands how complicated implementing a replacement or even a stopgap would be, and he does not want Congress spending time on the Republican party bete noire of Obamacare to the detriment of pushing through Trump’s priority items, particularly early in his term when he has the best chance to take ground quickly.
On the other hand, maybe Trump's really devoting lots of his non-tweeting time to crafting an Obamacare replacement that will be, as promised, “something terrific.”

Jonathan Chait writes that "if Republicans want to actually put a new system into place, and not just turn the health care market into a smoking crater, they need at least eight Senate Democrats to join them." Schumer's putting them on notice that that isn't happening. Any other kind of "repeal" that nibbles around the edges to get Democratic support would be merely symbolic. Chait continues:
That’s why repeal and delay was the best chance to destroy Obamacare. The gamble was that, by blowing up the health care system on a fuse, Republicans could pressure Senate Democrats into going along with a Republican friendly replacement. The details might be unpopular, but coerced Democratic support might give it cover. But this plan only works if 50 Senate Republicans are willing to gamble that they can hold the one-seventh of the economy consumed by health care as a hostage and force a bunch of Democrats to go along. If that gamble fails, the ruin could easily trigger a backlash against the majority party. Apparently not enough Senate Republicans are willing to roll the dice. If this holds, Obamacare, or something substantially similar, is probably going to survive.
Then again, Democrats have caved before. If you have a Democratic senator where you live, show them a little encouragement. Maybe a supportive phone call or a Scooby snack. For Republicans, ask how many sick constituents have volunteered to die in support of the senator's repeal vote.