The minute they cast that [Trumpcare] vote they are putting doo-doo on their shoe.
Thus spoke Nancy Pelosi, referring to Republicans contemplating voting for the AHCA. And, indeed, as zombie Trumpcare dies yet another death, it seems that the GOP has stepped in it once again.
Instead of nine lives, repeal and replace seems to have nine deaths.
And speaking of death, the first version of Trumpcare would’ve deprived 24 million of their healthcare…before it was made exponentially more regressive to bring onboard the tea partiers. The new, new CBO estimate of the ever more regressive AHCA isn’t expected for weeks, but why let that stop the mad rush to deny healthcare to millions?
The latest machinations in the interminable zombie Trumpcare soap opera appear to have been a game of pass the buck. The wingnut Freedom Caucus felt the sting of The Donald’s Twitter lashing, so they collaborated with the co-chairman of the “moderate” Tuesday Group, Tom MacArthur, to provide them a blame-avoiding figleaf.
Key to the latest Trumpcare push was a White House desperate for an accomplishment to tout — any at all — as Donald Trump’s hundredth day in office fast approaches. Though The Donald has been trying to play down the significance of the first 100 days benchmark, he’s growing increasingly desperate to cram in accomplishments before April 29.
Zombie Trumpcare 3.0: Tuesday’s Child or Redheaded Stepchild?
MacArthur — who had supported the first, even more draconian version of the AHCA — seems to have gone off the moderate conservative reservation. His fellow Tuesday Group members, including fellow Tuesday Group co-chair Charlie Dent, are far from onboard with a plan designed to give an appearance of retaining healthcare for people with pre-existing conditions and the aptly named essential benefits, while actually stripping these vital protections from millions.
Zombie Trumpcare 3.0 would accomplish this wink and nod subterfuge by allowing states to request virtually assured wavers from the White House.
Pretty please, with sugar on top, can we implement the policies you repeatedly tried and failed to get through congress?
So far, most of the “moderates” are holding firm. But President Trump — who puts the bully in bully pulpit — is attempting to tighten the screws on the Tuesday Group and others, like Darrell Issa, who oppose the latest iteration of the AHCA.
Moderate conservatives — many of whom represent districts won by Hillary Clinton — are damned if they do; damned if they don’t. The Trumpist base would blame them for scuttling the AHCA. As the Speaker of the House warned (or threatened):
I think people’s seats are at risk if we don’t do what we said we’d do.
Meanwhile, moderates and independent voters would rightly punish centrists for the damage caused to the healthcare system — not to mention countless constituents — if they support the plan.
Trumpcare for All (Except Us)
In the last episode of As the Zombie Trumpcare Turns, the House leadership inserted an exemption from the AHCA’s regressive healthcare restrictions for congresspeople and their aides. A bit of background: During the original Obamacare debates, Sen. Charles Grassley bloviated about the hypocrisy of congress not including itself in the Obamacare marketplaces. That was because congresspeople and their aides were already covered by the government. But truth be damned … this is politics!
Grassley et al won the argument and congresspeople and those in their employ were placed in the ACA exchanges.
Fast forward to 2017. With the worm turned, it was the Dems crying foul. What, the AHCA is good enough for everyone else but you?
The damage was done. Within a day of the scheme’s exposure, the congressional exemption was quietly excised by the House leadership.
Despite this embarrassment, Paul Ryan and his whip minions dutifully dug out the cat ‘o nine tails as they caved to their standard bearer’s demands. Yet every concession to the Freedom Caucus zealots pushed more Republicans away, including previous supporters like Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
Zombie Trumpcare was still short of the required 216 Republican votes and, just as importantly, the measure would’ve imperiled Friday’s stopgap budget extension, risking a government shutdown. As the budget negotiations were coming down to the wire, Ryan pissed off both Trump and his buddy Reince Priebus by refusing to schedule a vote.
You’ll notice, however, that little is being said about that other chamber of congress. That’s because there’s almost no chance of the AHCA passing the Senate, with its whisper-thin GOP majority.
There’s a reason there are so many holdouts. Quite a few Republicans are leery about the prospect of so many of their constituents losing healthcare. Vox’s Andrew Prokop calls these GOP pols “the Coverage Caucus.”
In March, during the debate over the first iteration of Trumpcare, Prokop said:
The Coverage Caucus is not an organized bloc in any way, shape, or form. It is a loose collection of Republicans who fear any bill that would result in millions of Americans losing health insurance. Some are worried about their constituents losing health care. Others also worry that voting for such a bill could hurt their political careers.
Members of this unofficial Coverage Caucus aren’t all moderates, either. Many represent Red expansion states like Louisiana and Kentucky. It seems the truism that it’s harder to take away an entitlement than to grant one is, well, true.
The Washington Examiner’s Byron York reports that as many as 40 or 50 House members secretly don’t want to repeal Obamacare. Said York:
The reason is fear. When the lawmaker said colleagues don’t want repeal “because of their district,” that was another way of saying the members are all representatives, and the voters they represent don’t want repeal. From The Hill on Thursday afternoon: “Many vulnerable Republicans are running scared. One moderate Republican was overheard in a House cafeteria this week telling an aide: ‘If I vote for this healthcare bill, it will be the end of my career.'”
I’ve talked a lot about the fear of the poor, those with pre-existing conditions, the aging, etc. who stand to lose their healthcare if Zombie Trumpcare ever passes. In the end, it may be the GOP moderates’ fear of electoral loss that saves these vulnerable populations.
For many, the political cowardice of moderate conservatives may save their very lives.
Other Posts in My Zombie Trumpcare Series:
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