Republicans in Congress are trying to push their latest effort to attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, spearheaded by Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), through the Senate before September 30 without proper hearings or a score from the Congressional Budget Office. It can only be debated on the Senate floor for 90 seconds.
The goal is to pass the bill via reconciliation, which means it needs only a simple majority to pass and avoids any chance of a Democratic filibuster—but reconciliation ends next Saturday, so Republicans have set a September 30 deadline for passing the bill.
The thing is, the September 30 deadline is a hoax.
Republicans can begin a new reconciliation process in January, meaning next year, the bill (or another version of repeal and replace) could see proper hearings, debate, and get scored, and still pass with a simple majority.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced his opposition to the bill Friday afternoon, saying that although he supports the proposal on its merits, he wants regular order and can’t vote for it “in good conscience.” That makes the bill’s passage less likely — but it’s still not impossible.
🚨🚨🚨🚨McCAIN NO🚨🚨🚨🚨 pic.twitter.com/c8AmD0ncKf
— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) September 22, 2017
For one thing, McCain could change his mind. Republican lawmakers are making it appear as if this is going through regular order by holding just one hearing on the bill on Monday in the Senate Committee on Finance, and this might be enough to convince McCain.
But the bigger point is this: McCain says he would vote for the bill if it went through regular order, and regular order doesn’t have a deadline of next Saturday.
So why are Republicans rushing it through? The answer has nothing to do with policy and everything to do with politics.
“You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told reporters earlier this week. “But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.
Grassley’s argument sounds a lot like President Trump’s.
After the last attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed, McConnell said it was time to “move on,” but the president has consistently said the Senate needs to get back to work and repeal Obamacare.
His argument for why has not been centered on criticisms of the Affordable Care Act itself, but rather the fact that Republicans in Congress have campaigned on repealing former President Barack Obama’s signature achievement for years now.
Don't give up Republican Senators, the World is watching: Repeal & Replace…and go to 51 votes (nuke option), get Cross State Lines & more.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2017
“Don’t give up Republican Senators, the World is watching: Repeal & Replace,” Trump tweeted in late July.
Senator Mitch McConnell said I had "excessive expectations," but I don't think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
“After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?” Trump tweeted in August.
Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn't get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2017
“Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!” Trump said the next day.
Ever since late July, every few days as summer has waned, Trump has gone back to the same argument: Republicans promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, so they should repeal and replace Obamacare.
Policy arguments have been scarce. Occasionally, Trump has argued that Senate Republicans need to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act because “Obamacare is dead.” It’s important to note that Obamacare is not actually dead, but every time Trump says it, he’s speaking it into being.
Many of the central problems with the law — rising premiums, few if any insurers to choose from in counties across the country — can be directly traced back to Trump, who has stoked uncertainty and drastically cut the budget for advertising the law. And now, almost two months to the day, it has finally worked.
“If we do nothing, it has a tremendous impact on the 2018 elections,” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) told Vox earlier this week. “Look, we’re in the back seat of a convertible being driven by Thelma and Louise, and we’re headed toward the canyon… So we have to get out of the car, and you have to have a car to get into, and this is the only car there is.”
But, again, this isn’t the only car.
Graham-Cassidy will not be scored by the Congressional Budget Office before the fake deadline of September 30. Should the Senate vote before their fake deadline next week, they’ll be voting blind, without data from the CBO on how the bill would affect the deficit, premiums, or insurance coverage.
Outside analyses have found that, if the bill becomes law, 32 million more people could lose their insurance over the next ten years, and every state would suffer under funding cuts of $4 trillion — trillion, with a “t” — by 2036.
Early next week, Graham-Cassidy will have a hearing, a thinly veiled attempt to woo McCain. And then the Senate will likely vote that bill, after having debated it for just 90 seconds. Because that’s what they have promised, for seven years, to do.