The House and Senate bills designed to deliver on the Trump administration’s top priority—the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act—are overwhelmingly unpopular. Democrats hope to make them even more so over the next 10 days.
In the face of defeat, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to push back the vote on the Senate health care bill until after the Fourth of July holiday, allowing Republican senators time to regroup, analyze the bill, and perhaps make enough changes to get the requisite 50 votes. The Senate Republican leadership wants to vote and move off of the bill as quickly as possible in order to move on to tax reform, which it believes will be much more popular.
But Democrats and allied outside groups will try to keep the GOP health care plans in the spotlight, holding rallies and campaign events and airing ads across the country.
“Right now, health care is priority No. 1,” says Faiz Shakir, the American Civil Liberties Union national political director. “Period. Until it’s done, we don’t move onto anything else.”
Since passing the ACA in 2010, Democrats have suffered political defeats at every level. So they are exuberant to see the Republicans’ alternatives falter with the public, as more than half the public viewed the ACA favorably for the first time in June 2017, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll. While running on Obamacare becomes increasingly popular, Democratic senators are fully embracing running against the Republican bills, even in states President Trump won.
The Senate Democratic leadership has asked its members to write op-eds, remain active on social media, meet with local stakeholders, and hold press conferences over the recess next week. On Thursday, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio told National Journal he’ll meet with various interest groups over the recess, as he criticized the Senate bill for its $770 billion cut to Medicaid, which helps battle the opioid crisis in his state.
“I’ve heard, to the person—whether they’re law enforcement or counselors or medical personnel—that the most important tool that we have in combating opioids is Medicaid,” said Brown. “Period, no questions asked.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania says he’ll go to hospitals, towns, and rural parts of his state to talk about the Senate GOP bill, especially its impact on seniors. AARP, the nation’s largest nonprofit for those 50 and older, has unveiled radio and TV ads urging a number of GOP senators to vote against the bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, and held events with patient and provider groups across the country.
“I think it’ll be a big part of 2018 overall,” said Casey of the anti-repeal push.
Planned Parenthood has also taken a leading role in rallying opposition to the BCRA, which would strip federal funding for the women’s health group for a year. The group held a protest near the Capitol this week, and is airing ads targeting GOP senators in Nevada, West Virginia, and Arizona. On Thursday, Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s president, talked before the Democratic senators’ weekly lunch.
“This is the worst bill for women’s health in a generation, and would devastate millions of people,” said Dawn Laguens, a senior official at Planned Parenthood. “Make no mistake: This fight is far from over.”
The fierce amount of political pressure on moderates and conservative senators helped delay the Senate vote and is shaping the bill as negotiations continue. Lately, some Republican senators have been talking about repealing the BCRA’s cut on affluent Americans’ net investment tax, which Democrats have used as an attack line, arguing the bill redistributes money from those on Medicaid to those at the top. The tax cut also costs $172 billion over a decade; if Republicans take it out of the bill, they can also use that money to help the less fortunate.
“Leaving it as it is—where you’re repealing that tax and at the same time not providing lower-income citizens with enough money to actually purchase a health plan—that’s not a sustainable proposition,” said Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who’s up for reelection in 2018. “And certainly not one that is worthy of becoming law.”
For years, Republicans have pointed out rising premiums and the insurers who have fled the federal marketplace. When asked about the Democrats’ rallies against the Obamacare-repeal bills, Sen. Cory Gardner, the head of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, said on Thursday that the policy goal should be “instead of trying to keep the status quo, find something that works.”
But the Republicans’ anti-Obamacare message has lost its luster as the public views their alternative bills, which received between 12 and 17 percent approval in three national polls this week. The polls were conducted around the same time that the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis. The CBO found that the Senate bill would increase the number of uninsured by 22 million and increase Americans’ out-of-pocket spending as insurance companies pay for fewer benefits, while eventually reducing premiums by 20 percent.
What We're Following See More »
"Attorney General Jeff Sessions — at the public urging of President Donald Trump — has been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed, according to three sources with direct knowledge."
"A tsunami warning was issued Tuesday for the Pacific Coast from Washington to Alaska after a major undersea earthquake hit southeast of Kodiak," with a magnitude reported by the USGS at 7.9 and the NWS as 8.2. "The warning was in effect for more than 3,000 miles of coastal zones north of the Washington border: British Columbia and Alaska’s entire southern shoreline including the Aleutian Islands."
"Trump is expected to invite French President Emmanuel Macron to Washington for an official state visit later this year...While a date for the visit has not yet been officially set and the White House has not made an announcement, sources say that could come as soon as this week, while Trump attends the World Economic Forum in Davos."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he's accepting Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's offer to hold an immigration vote at a later date, "clearing the way for passage of a bill to reopen the federal government" today. "McConnell early Monday promised to take up an immigration bill that would protect an estimated 800,000 Dreamers from deportation, under an open amendment process, if Democrats would agree to end the government shutdown."