As this week's developments have made clear, Republicans can't offer a coherent explanation for why they're scrambling to pass a regressive health care plan. Many GOP officials have no idea what it's in the Graham-Cassidy plan they intend to vote for, or what it would do to the system and the public.
But when asked to defend their intentions, Republican lawmakers can't just offer a blank stare. In fact, over the last few days, the GOP pitch has basically been reduced to five talking points, each of which is spectacularly unpersuasive.
1. Republicans have to keep a promise. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said yesterday, "I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn't be considered. 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."
That's absurd. For one thing, it's ridiculous to think a vague campaign promise is as important, if not more so, than the real-world effects of overhauling the nation's health care system. For another, if Republicans "have a responsibility to carry out what [they] said in the campaign," they'd also be extending coverage to everyone, shielding Medicaid beneficiaries from cuts, and guaranteeing protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. Instead, GOP officials appear desperate to break those promises without explanation.
2. The clock is ticking. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said on Tuesday night, "We have a Sept. 30 deadline on our promise. Let's finish the job."
Um, no. As New York's Jon Chait responded, "Can you imagine being accused on national television of sponsoring a law that would hurt millions of people, and lying about its effects, and your response is “We have a deadline”? They are rushing to enact massive, permanent changes to the health-care system because of a legislative deadline? What if you said a used car was dangerously unsafe and lacked any of the promised features, and the salesman’s response was to tell you it’s the end of the month and he has a sales quota to meet?"
3. Campaign priorities trump public priorities. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said this week, in reference to health care policymaking, "If we do nothing, I think it has a tremendous impact on the 2018 elections. And whether or not Republicans still maintain control and we have the gavel."