You’d think after several dozen votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, congressional Republicans would be quite adept at one of their favorite hobbies. After all, practice makes perfect, and GOP lawmakers have all kinds of practice trying to remove “Obamacare” from the books.
All of which brings us to now and the new Republican initiative to repeal the ACA – yes, they keep wasting time on this – which is going surprisingly poorly.
For example, congressional Republicans are trying to pursue their goal through the budget reconciliation process, but this week, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough said reconciliation is only supposed to be used for bills that decrease the deficit, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, repealing the Affordable Care Act would make the deficit vastly larger.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has suggested firing MacDonough and replacing her with a parliamentarian who’ll interpret Senate rules in ways Republicans want them to be interpreted.
Making matters slightly worse, The Hill reports that GOP senators are divided among themselves over how to pursue repeal, with “some Republicans are balking at a proposal to repeal the expansion of Medicaid.”
“I am very concerned about the 160,000 people who had Medicaid expansion in my state. I have difficulty with that being included,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia.Sen. John Hoeven (R), who represents North Dakota, where an estimated 19,000 people gained access to Medicaid after Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple decided to broaden the program, said he was unsure about repealing the expansion. […]“I respect the decision of our Legislature and our governor on Medicaid expansion,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R) of Montana, which has a Democratic governor. “I’m one who respects their rights and voices.”
One unnamed senator added, “Repealing the Medicaid expansion is not going to be in there because it’s too problematic for many Republicans.” The lawmaker added, “I don’t want to stick the state with the bill.”
I see. So Republicans are eager to gut the American health care system, except for the popular parts that are actually delivering health security to American families.
For what it’s worth, GOP leaders are still trying to figure out the road ahead. They realize all of this is theatrical anyway – President Obama will veto any repeal bill – and the endeavor is more of a dress rehearsal for 2017, when Republicans expect to control the White House and Congress simultaneously.
But the key lesson here is that some Republican lawmakers are starting to realize that it’s vastly easier to talk about “repealing Obamacare” than it is to actually take Americans’ benefits away to scratch a partisan itch.
Or as the Huffington Post’s Jonathan Cohn put it, “It’s almost as though the concept of repealing Obamacare is more appealing as a talking point, a fundraising pitch and an electoral strategy than it is as an exercise in public policymaking.”