Yesterday, the Republican House voted to bring back pre-existing conditions and take health coverage away from about 24 million people. According to the Congressional Budget office, premiums for older and poorer people could increase by as much as 750%. The bill included a provision that would prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds which will make access to care even more difficult for millions of mostly poorer women. It was cause for a big celebration at the White House.
While the House members and Donald Trump were patting themselves on the back, the Senate was rolling its eyes. The bill was dead on arrival in the upper chamber. Senators say they’ll start from scratch. Good luck getting that bill through conference.
Democrats, for their part, were almost gleeful. As the GOP House members left the chamber, some Democrats taunted them, singing “Na, na, na, na, hey, hey, hey, good-bye.” Most don’t believe the bill that was passed will ever become law but they do believe the GOP gave them ammunition to launch some brutal attack ads.
Republicans passed the bill because they had to. They’ve been promising for seven years to repeal Obamacare. Now, they’ve at least voted to do it. They can tell their base that they followed through on their promise. As Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel tweeted, “If it dies in the Senate, at least 40% of base voters will enter 2018 thinking Trump repealed Obamacare.”
Last week, a pollster friend of mine said that, nationally, they’ve found that only 5% of likely voters are swing voters. To put that in perspective, when I started doing politics in the early 1990s, swing voters made up about 20% of the electorate nationally. The rest are partisan. In gerrymandered districts, those numbers are probably even smaller. The GOP members of Congress who voted for the bill are more concerned with keeping their base happy and less concerned with persuading anybody.
The bill that passed yesterday was much more about politics than health care. Republicans don’t really care too much about providing health care to people. They’re much more concerned about keeping taxes low for their deep-pocketed donors and repealing Obamacare is the first step in their tax “reform” plan. In their world view, if we just let everyone keep as much of their money as possible, everybody will be better off, even if it means people can’t afford health care. They’re wrong, of course, but that won’t stop them from taking health care away from millions and giving billions in tax cuts to millionaires. The only thing that will stop that is a big wave in 2018. Over the next few weeks, we’ll see if this bill stirs or calms the electoral sea.