Some of us tried very hard. Some of us have tried to repeal Obamacare and repeal and replace the GOP politicians who had no intentions of fulfilling their promises for six years. But they won.
It’s very clear that Senate Republicans and the president have no understanding of what Obamacare actually is and isn’t and that they have no intention of repealing it. No good will come out of conservatives putting their name on an unpopular bill that “fixes” Obamacare under the guise of repealing it. Whatever the intentions until now, it is abundantly clear that for individual conservatives, such as Ted Cruz and Mark Meadows, working in good faith to salvage a modicum of Obamacare repeal, we have now reached the point of no return. We stand at the moment when Moses told the congregation, “Please get away from the tents of these wicked men, and do not touch anything of theirs, lest you perish because of all their sins” (Numbers 17:26).
Right after Republicans won the election, we laid out a strategy for immediately repealing Obamacare with a transition period, so that the default position would always be the repeal of Obamacare and so that consumers would get a sense of what premiums would look like after the leviathan was slain. We also proposed a 20-point blueprint for free market health care reforms to be subsequently pursued once Obamacare was repealed.
Yet from day one, Republicans refused to repeal Obamacare, adopted the messaging and talking points of Obamacare under the guise of repealing it, and therefore made the law more popular than ever despite it failing before our very eyes. The bill that came out of the House was already a dismal failure and barely repealed the core elements of Obamacare – the regulations, subsidies, and Medicaid expansion – but some conservatives, in a view I didn’t share, felt that it was the only way to get the ball moving, in hopes that the legislation would improve in the Senate.
Throughout the process, the only leadership the president showed was his strong-arming of conservatives who actually wanted to fulfill the campaign promise and at least substantially repeal the law.
Now that the bill has come to the Senate, senators have taken an excrement sandwich and turned it into maggot-covered vomit. After all, Senate Republicans make House Republicans look like the Founders. While the text is still behind closed doors, the contours of the bill were set a long time ago. Legislators are taking each element of the bill – regulations, Medicaid expansion, subsidies, and mandates – and making them more liberal. Now, they might even keep some of the taxes (the only component they consistently opposed) in order to pay for the other elements. They have dropped any pretense of repealing Obamacare and are all about “fixing” it with even more subsidies and just converting the mandates to back-door requirements to purchase health insurance.
Until now, I was wondering where the president has been. Why was he not giving the Senate RINOs the same Twitter treatment for obstructing the House bill as he did the House Freedom Caucus? Now, according to an AP report of a private conversation the president had with some of those very RINOS, it’s clear that Trump agrees with the RINOs. At the same time he says Obamacare is a disaster and must be repealed, he believes that even the House version, which barely repeals the law, is “too mean.” Evidently, we need even more government control over health care … and that is exactly what we are getting with the Senate bill. Indeed, the AHCA is mean because it keeps Obamacare in place, but that’s not Trump’s criticism.
Some of the conservatives on the working group, such as Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, have an important decision to make. Either they can box in their conservative colleagues by supporting a bill that makes Obamacare great again and is unpopular with the public, or they can evacuate and stand on their own two feet. Either way, Obamacare is not being repealed, so why get tainted by something they don’t believe in any more? Moreover, why make it harder for other colleagues not in the working group to oppose this nonsense? Senate RINOs might be heaping praise on Cruz for giving them a lot of rope to hang themselves with, but what are conservatives getting in return?
Republicans have already preemptively sabotaged our messaging on Obamacare. Continuing in their group will just waste another month we could be working on regulations, immigration, and national security, and we won’t repeal Obamacare anyway, but instead just make it more popular.
It would be one thing if Republicans at least repealed the core regulations that make Obamacare insolvent. Then, even if they throw endless subsidies at Medicaid, private insurance, and high risk pools, at least there can be a free market, albeit a distorted one, for the remainder of the country or at least for the states that don’t want government-run health care. But it has become clear that on the regulatory structure, the Senate is making the House bill worse, not better. The time to evacuate is now.
It’s not too late for conservatives to propose their own repeal bill with free market supply side and insurance reforms. They can stand on their own messaging instead of dying for the other side’s ideology. If we are going to be stuck with a failing health care system, skyrocketing premiums, and states without a single insurer, at least let’s have the blame put on Obamacare, where it belongs, not phony repeal of Obamacare, so that we can have a small chance of coming back at another time and repealing it.
As for the conservative grassroots, the time to repeal and replace any Republican who supports Obamacare is 2018. And don’t lie to us on the campaign trail about what Obamacare is and isn’t.