The House voted 217 to 213 to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This cynical divisive act of cowardice served one (and only one) purpose — to give Donald Trump a legislative “victory.” But what did they win, exactly? I can guarantee you that, even as Trump talks about how great this plan is, he has no idea what the bill does. None. He just knows it must be a good plan because it passed.
During the campaign, Trump promised universal coverage at “a tiny fraction of the cost” and “it will be so easy.” It was only after he was elected that he realized how complicated health care is. By most estimates, it counts for a sixth of our economy and House Republicans passed it without knowing what was in it.
I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t Nancy Pelosi, when she was the speaker, say they had to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it? No. That’s one of the enduring myths of Obamacare — a quote, truncated and removed from its context then used as a bludgeon. The Affordable Care Act took 18 months to develop. There were hours and hours of hearings and debates. President Obama toured the country promoting it and taking ownership of it. During that year and a half, we lost Sen. Ted Kennedy and had to endure a special election. Democrats (though they controlled both houses) negotiated away popular provisions such as the public option to garner bipartisan support, incorporating demand after demand from Republicans only to have them vote no anyway. So no, the ACA wasn’t “rammed through” like so many Republicans claim.
The bill that passed the House yesterday was debated for six hours. No amendments were allowed. No hearings were held. There was no score from the Congressional Budget Office letting us know how much it would cost or what the impact would be on the people. The previous version (the one that didn’t make it to a floor vote) was going to kick 27 million people off their health insurance. It was polling at 17 percent. Somehow, I doubt this version will be any better and, when the CBO score comes out in a week or so, we’re likely to find that it is much worse.
Why did they have to rush this? What was the hurry? One reason is that the Trump administration needed some legislative victory to tout. The president just held a 100-day rally in a town he once referred to as a “war zone” and all he could say was that he nominated a Supreme Court justice (which was McConnell more than Trump) and he signed a bunch of executive orders, which were themselves broken campaign promises. The evidence of this assertion is that after voting on the bill, House Republicans got on buses and rode to the White House for a Trump victory celebration. What were they celebrating? Paul Ryan and Donald Trump had bullied their own party into supporting bad legislation? That’s a win?
Trump said Obamacare is “dead” well, “essentially dead.” He described the Republican bill as “something that is very, very, incredibly well-crafted.” I can guarantee you with all certainty that he has no idea what is in that bill. Most of the Republicans who voted for it hadn’t read it.
Now, I can break down for you all the terrible things in this bill, such as how it declares being a woman a pre-existing condition, screws over special-needs kids, cuts Medicaid funds that help the poor to fund a tax cut for the wealthy, and offers states a waiver to allow insurance companies to jack up rates on pre-existing conditions and old people. But what’s the point? This bill will never become law. The Senate is going to start from scratch. That’s the thing that really bothers me about this. The AHCA will be DOA in the Senate. So all the arm twisting and bullying to get the votes they needed in the House was just so Trump could have his Rose Garden photo op:
I have a feeling this isn’t the first time these guys celebrated after skipping out on an abortion bill. pic.twitter.com/mtSfHZuZVb
— Miles Kahn (@mileskahn) May 4, 2017
It was a sea of white men all celebrating killing health care for at least 27 million people and passing a tax cut for people making more than $250,000 a year. They are so proud and happy. But most of them don’t even know what they voted for because what they really voted for was for Paul Ryan to keep his leadership post. Aside from Trump’s photo op, that was the priority here. Because if Ryan failed to pass a bill on this third try, then his speakership was going to be over. In fact, the entire House leadership team would have been kicked out.
Think about that. If you were a rank-and-file member, that conversation had to go something like:
“We need you to support this bill.”
“Can I read it?”
“We don’t have draft language yet.”
“What about a CBO score?”
“Is it popular with the public?”
“Polling nationally at about 17 percent.”
“This bill sounds awful.”
“Don’t worry. You and your staff will get an exemption from whatever is in it.”
“Why should I vote for it?”
“If it fails again, the entire House leadership will be fired and you might have to take one of the posts.”
“Oh hell no!”
The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Hospitals Association, the AARP, insurance companies, and editorial boards across the country all oppose this bill. Perhaps the president has succeeded in uniting this country afterall.
Next week (or maybe the week after) the CBO is going to tell everyone exactly what the Republicans passed yesterday. Your congressman needs to hear from you. One of the easiest ways to make that happen is to use ResistBot to send faxes and letters to your representatives for free (though they would appreciate donations). I use it three or four times a week to let my congressman, Dr. Phil Roe, know that his district isn’t as safe as he believes. If we can’t make these people feel uneasy about something as egregious as this dumpster fire of a bill, then we’ve lost already. Next year will be the midterms and every member of congress needs to be held accountable for what they did yesterday. I’ll do my part. I’m counting on you to do yours.