Late Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he won’t bring up the latest incarnation of the Republican effort to replace Obamacare until John McCain recovers from surgery to remove a blood clot from his right eye. It’s not as if McConnell had a choice. Within hours of the bill being unveiled three days earlier, two Republicans–Susan Collins and Rand Paul–announced that they opposed both a motion to proceed to a final vote, as well as the final bill. If even one more Republican defects, the bill dies.
On Sunday, Paul argued that the delay in bringing TrumpMcConnellCare up for a vote will ultimately knock scales off Republican eyes–enough to make them conclude that it doesn’t completely repeal Obamacare.
Like many members of the GOP’s conservative wing, Paul, who is a practicing eye doctor, has insisted on a complete repeal of Obamacare. In an interview on this week’s edition of CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Paul claimed that any delay in bringing up the bill will ultimately sour more conservative Republicans on it. Watch a clip here.
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) July 16, 2017
Paul told host John Dickerson that the delay will give Republicans more time to take a deep dive into this bill–and they won’t like what they see.
“You know, I think the longer the bill’s out there, the more conservative Republicans are going to discover that it’s not repeal. And the more that everybody’s going to discover that it keeps the fundamental flaw of Obamacare.”
As Paul sees it, that flaw is Obamacare’s individual mandate, which the current incarnation of TrumpMcConnellCare retains. He believes it subsidizes the “death spiral of Obamacare” at taxpayer expense.
At the same time, Paul applauded an amendment drafted by fellow tea partiers Ted Cruz and Mike Lee that would allow insurers to offer bare-bones plans. While he believed that Cruz and Lee were “trying to do what is right” and give Americans “more freedoms,” it still retains Obamacare’s overall structure.
Paul prefers to let people join group plans, which would be formed by “anybody who wants to form them.” They would be open to everyone in the individual marketplace. He believes that “almost everybody” would join group plans in his scheme, since the individual market is a minefield. Paul made a similar proposal when he introduced the “Obamacare Replacement Act” in January. While it looked like a good idea on paper, it was rather hazy on how poor and middle-class Americans would still be able to get affordable health care.
If Paul had any say in the matter, Congress would have simply repealed Obamacare first, then crafted a replacement later. As it stands now, it will be very difficult for McConnell to round up 50 votes for TrumpMcConnellCare even when McCain returns. According to The New York Times, only 11 Senators–all Republicans–definitely supported the bill as of the close of business on Friday. The Democrats are united in their opposition to the bill, and 39 Republicans are either undecided or have serious misgivings about it. The undecideds not only include moderates like McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Shelley Moore Capito, and John Hoeven, but some of the Senate’s most conservative members–Tom Cotton, Jim Inhofe, Deb Fischer, and Joni Ernst, among others.
The bill ran into further trouble on Saturday, when Ron Johnson hinted he was seriously considering voting against the motion to proceed after learning that McConnell tried to tell the more moderate members of his caucus that the deepest cuts to Medicaid would never take effect. If Johnson joins Paul and Collins in opposing the motion to proceed, this bill dies.
Paul is right about one thing. While McCain recovers, the 39 Republicans still on the fence are going to get squeezed from both sides. Democrats and moderate Republicans think this bill is too extreme, while conservative Republicans like Paul think it isn’t extreme enough. McConnell has no margin for error whatsoever. If this bill goes down, he will own it.
(featured image courtesy Gage Skidmore, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)