A fight is brewing in Congress over the repeal, replacement or tweaking of the misnamed Affordable Care Act otherwise known as ‘Obamacare’ and Ted Cruz is not on the front lines — at least not yet. He told reporters today that he was “still studying the details of the bill.” His colleagues, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) are considerably less reluctant to reject what they have seen — Senator Paul describing it as “Obamacare Lite”.
They were unified on Feb 27, issuing a joint statement saying “2 yrs ago, the GOP Congress voted to repeal Obamacare. That 2015 repeal language should be the floor, the bare minimum. #FullRepeal.”
The Houston Chronicle points out that the strongest critic of the House GOP plan as drafted by Texas House member and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady, is Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH).
Jordan a key member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, called the plan, “subsidies for unaffordable health care, subsidies for unaffordable premiums”, in an interview with the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel. “Keep the Cadillac tax in place? Keep Medicaid in place until 2020?” Jordan said Monday. “We didn’t have Medicaid expansion in the bill we sent to President Obama, but we have it in the one we send to President Trump? That makes no sense to me.”
Some wonder if Senator Cruz is recalculating his previous statements that before anything else happens, a straight-up repeal of Obamacare is first. In Politico last week, Cruz had written:
First principle: Honor our promise. When you spend six years promising, ‘If only we get elected, we’ll repeal Obamacare,’ you cannot renege on that promise. Failure is not an option. Breaking our word would be catastrophe. The voters would, quite rightly, never again trust Republicans to deliver on anything.
Also notably not leading, but watching from the sidelines is Donald Trump. The most that have come from his office is a passive statement from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer:
“Obamacare has proven to be a disaster with fewer options, inferior care, and skyrocketing costs that are crushing small businesses and families across America. Today marks an important step toward restoring healthcare choices and affordability back to the American people. President Trump looks forward to working with both Chambers of Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
The GOP is fractured on the way forward on their replacement of Obamacare. Reportedly there is a group of GOP Senators that will oppose the removal of the individual mandate, even if a provision to penalize health care purchasers with a surcharge when they do eventually enter the market is substituted.
And there are as many as 23 Republican Congressional representatives that sit in moderate districts that voted for Hillary Clinton last November, who are shaking in their boots about being asked to vote to ax Obamacare. The mid-term elections for the party that takes the White House are traditionally brutal, to begin with, and this adds another layer of risk to a certain rank and file GOP members.
Lining up to stiffen resolve will be the influential Heritage Foundation which has an army of grassroots activists called Sentinels at its disposal, as well as FreedomWorks and the Koch brothers — who are funding a PAC called “You Promised”, which will sponsor national ads calling for repeal. Tim Phillips, President of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch political organization, stated:
We’ve been patient this year, but it is past time to act and to act decisively. Our network has spent more money, more time and more years fighting Obamacare than anything else. And now with the finish line in sight, we cannot allow some folks to pull up and give up.
Perhaps President Trump was more correct than he realized when he commented, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” There are more twists and turns and slight of hand maneuvers than meet the eye.
It is not going to be pretty.