After weeks of haggling over what the latest overhaul of American healthcare coverage should look like, Republican moderates – including President Trump – have essentially given the conservative wing of their own party the finger.
CNN is reporting that conservative House and Senate leaders met with Trump Monday afternoon in a last-ditch effort to craft a bill that actually fulfills Republicans’ election-season promises of fully repealing and replacing Obamacare. Utah Senator Mike Lee was quoted as saying the meeting was “terribly frustrating”.
The plan being promoted by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump is to basically repair Obamacare in a three-phase process, an effort which is very likely to be stymied by Democratic filibuster in the Senate. Though Republicans hold a majority with 52 votes, they will still be well short of the 60 required to block filibuster efforts – meaning the multi-phase healthcare overhaul may well wind up looking like a multi-phase subdivision abandoned after the recent housing bust.
Rep. Mark Meadows is among the House Freedom Caucus members who have stated they cannot not vote for the bill in its current form, but it is expected to be approved in the House despite numerous Republican defections. If it does survive the House, the bill is doomed in the Senate. Several Republican members have either indirectly indicated or flat-out stated that they cannot support it, and only three defections would be needed to defeat the bill.
This latest development stands in stark contrast to recent indications that the President might be open to the conservative option of a single-phase full repeal and replace. On Sunday, Ted Cruz stated on Face the Nation that he and other conservatives had met with Trump over the weekend to discuss the matter, and Sen. Rand Paul said recently after a meeting that the President was “much more open to negotiation” on the bill.
How this will all shake out is yet to be seen, but the CNN report states that conservatives have basically decided they are out of options. Though progress seems to have been made on issues such as tax credits for the elderly and Medicaid expansion and work requirements, serious concerns persist about the twelve policy mandates included in Obamacare which are seen as largely responsible for skyrocketing premiums.
Those rising premiums were at the fore during Cruz’ Sunday appearance, with the former Presidential contender stating that reducing premiums should be of paramount importance.
“My biggest concern with the House bill is that it doesn’t lower premiums … If Republicans hold a big press conference and pat ourselves on the back that we’ve repealed Obamacare and everyone’s premiums keep going up, people will be ready to tar and feather us in the streets – and quite rightly.”
Time is short for making the changes necessary to assuage the concerns of Cruz and other conservatives, as Speaker Ryan has scheduled the bill for consideration on Thursday. For now it looks like it’s the moderate three-phase plan or nothing at all.
Either way, the campaign promises of full repeal are – at least for the moment – ringing hollow.