Host Jimmy Kimmel speaks at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Chris Pizzello

Jimmy Kimmel: GOP's Cassidy 'lied right to my face' on healthcare

— Updated

Several months ago, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel took on an unexpected role in the national health care debate, talking to his audience about his young son's heart surgery, and his belief that all Americans should have access to affordable, potentially life-saving, care.

Soon after, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) began referencing the "Jimmy Kimmel Test": for a health care proposal to have merit, the Louisiana Republican said, it should ensure families are covered regardless of income. Cassidy even appeared on Kimmel's show, vowing to protect Americans who need protecting.

That was then; this is now. Cassidy is currently pushing his own right-wing Graham-Cassidy legislation, which does largely the opposite of what he publicly vowed to do, and which clearly fails the "Jimmy Kimmel Test." Last night, the ABC host let the country know just how outrageous this is.

[I]n his monologue on Tuesday, Kimmel said that Cassidy "wasn't very honest," pointing to the legislation that Cassidy co-authored with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

"I don't know what happened to Bill Cassidy," Kimmel said. "But when he was on this publicity tour, he listed his demands for a health-care bill very clearly. These were his words. He said he wants coverage for all, no discrimination based on preexisting conditions, lower premiums for middle-class families and no lifetime caps. Guess what? The new bill does none of those things."

The host added that "this new bill actually does pass the Jimmy Kimmel test, but a different Jimmy Kimmel test. With this one, your child with a preexisting condition will get the care he needs if, and only if, his father is Jimmy Kimmel. Otherwise, you might be screwed."

Before pleading with his audience to call Capitol Hill and urge lawmakers to defeat the bill, Kimmel went on to note that Cassidy "just lied right to my face."

It was a powerful monologue that's well worth your time, and if the public responds to it, the host may even help shape the direction of the debate. But stepping back, there was a line Kimmel used that got me thinking: "I don't know what happened to Bill Cassidy."

I don't know what happened to Bill Cassidy, either. The Louisiana Republican -- a physician by trade -- had positioned himself as something of a moderate on health care. Cassidy didn't just embrace the "Jimmy Kimmel Test" before ignoring it, he also partnered with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on a compromise measure that some Democrats were prepared to take seriously.

For a while, Cassidy seemed like the kind of GOP lawmaker who'd play a constructive role, not only in Republican politics, but in shaping the future of a stable American health care system.

And then something changed. As Jon Chait explained the other day, "Having surrendered his independence, Cassidy did not merely settle for the quiet life of an auto-voting partisan. He has transformed himself yet again, this time into a tireless crusader for repeal. While even many of the staunchest right-wingers in Congress have been willing to let the Obamacare repeal crusade die, Cassidy has thrown himself almost single-handedly into its revival."

The Louisianan's work with Susan Collins was thrown out. His commitment to the "Jimmy Kimmel Test" was cast aside. Cassidy joined his party's repeal ACA crusade, ignoring the consequences for families, and when the effort appeared dead, the Republican went out of his way to resuscitate it.

Cassidy went from being the thoughtful guy who impressed Jimmy Kimmel to being a zealot who's eager to do everything he can to take the American health care system backwards.

I honestly don't know what caused the shift, before he starts imposing real hardships on people who don't deserve it, perhaps Bill Cassidy can change back?