Over the summer, during the various stages of the health care repeal fight, several Senate Republicans at least went through the motions. Unwilling to look like knee-jerk partisans, GOP senators like Ohio’s Rob Portman and West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito – sometimes labeled as “moderates” by news outlets – said they weren’t prepared to endorse the Republican plan because it was a Republican plan.
Instead, they had certain conditions. These senators said they wanted increased investments to address the opioid crisis, for example, and additional protections for Medicaid beneficiaries. Without some concessions from GOP leaders, these senators said, their support was in doubt.
Two months later, those same senators have apparently decided they no longer care about these conditions. Roll Call reported this week:
Republican senators face the prospect of backtracking from their previous public stances in order to support fast-moving legislation that would significantly overhaul the U.S. health care system.
Concerns about the impact on people suffering from opioid addiction, drastic cuts to Medicaid and the lack of robust analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office appear to have vanished as the GOP hopes to advance a bill to repeal the 2010 health law before the fast-track budget reconciliation mechanism they are using expires on Sept. 30.
It’s almost as if many Senate Republicans weren’t especially serious about their stated principles. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said he opposed Medicaid cuts. Portman and Capito prioritized opioid investments. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he cared about a legitimate, thorough process – including a proper score from the Congressional Budget Office – and a lengthy policy debate.
A big chunk of the Republican Party, including Donald Trump himself, said protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions must be part of any GOP health care package.
And yet, here we are. Graham-Cassidy cuts Medicaid, ignores the opioid crisis, is advancing through a ridiculously truncated process, and eliminates guarantees for those with pre-existing conditions.
Some of this, obviously, is about hypocrisy, but that’s not the only problem. What’s striking in this area of the debate is the indifference many Republicans are showing toward the substance of the bill they’re prepared to vote on.
We’re not talking about measures GOP senators considered a priority years ago, about which they’ve changed their minds; we’re talking about key policy measures these Republicans pushed for in July. Those provisions are now missing, and those same senators don’t appear to care at all.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but there doesn’t appear to be any meaningful connection between what these senators said they wanted in the summer, and what they’re prepared to vote for in the fall.
Marc Short, the White House’s legislative affairs director, told NBC News this week “it’s not the policy, but the politics” fueling this renewed push. That’s clearly true, though it’s the policy that’s going to affect your family if this thing becomes law.