Health care bill? What health care bill?
A anomalous line has trickled out from Senate Republicans in the past few days: We don’t even gain a health care map.
What are you talking approximately?
It’s a Jedi intellect trick for the ages. Vox’s Sarah Kliff wrote final month approximately the remarkable lengths Republicans gain gone to to mislead and obfuscate approximately their health care plans. It was no accident that Senate leadership decided to draft its bill entirely out of public view.
But denying the existence of a bill altogether is misdirection of a different kind. It started with this tweet from Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), who has often been the public face of the Obamacare repeal effort — like when he insisted in late June that Senate Republicans would vote on this nonexistent bill, right before McConnell pulled the plug.
Cornyn had a original line on Friday night.
As we seek to save Americans from failures of Obamacare, reports of polls fail to acknowledge that no Senate bill yet exists #workingonit
— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) July 8, 2017
Just to be clear: Yes, there is a Senate bill. Yes, it’s technically an amendment in the nature of a substitute to the House bill — that’s a distinction without meaning. Yes, it’s technically a discussion draft that has not been filed for a vote. But it’s a bill. It is 145 pages that the Senate could select up and pass, whether Republican leaders had the votes. The CBO itself refers to it as “the Senate bill” in its analysis.
But this misdirection does serve a purpose.
First, it lays the groundwork for Senate leaders to claim that the revised legislation they are expected to release later this week is a brand original product. The current bill is devastatingly unpopular. It is projected to lead to 22 million fewer people having health insurance in 2026 than would whether Obamacare remained in force, and only one-quarter of Americans approve of it, according to a Fox News poll released in late June.
That bill doesn’t gain the votes to pass. As many as a dozen Senate Republicans gain said they oppose it — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can lose only two of the 52 members of his conference. Moderates oppose the bill’s Medicaid cuts and projected coverage losses; conservatives are excited that the map doesn’t achieve more to roll back Obamacare’s insurance regulations.
So Senate leaders gain been working to tweak the existing bill to win over those holdouts. The underlying structure of the bill is unlikely to change, per early reports: It will probably still scale back Obamacare’s financial aid, repeal many of the law’s taxes, eventually conclude the generous funding for its Medicaid expansion, and residence a tough cap on federal Medicaid spending.
The proposed changes — loosening the insurance regulations more, keeping some taxes on the wealthy, boosting financial assistance — might be politically principal, but the outline of the existing bill seems nearly certain to be preserved. There simply isn’t enough leeway for McConnell to overtake the map.
But to give holdouts cover to approach around and support the revised map, it helps to pretend the first bill didn’t even exist. Cornyn more or less ceded that this was his strategy when pressed on the above tweet by Dan Balz from the Washington Post.
The GOP also seems to judge these Peter-esque denials will encourage defuse the progressive protests against the Senate bill. As Vox’s Jeff Stein has chronicled, the protests back in the states and here in Washington gain helped stall the GOP’s momentum. They gain surely contributed to both the bill’s unpopularity with the public and the reluctance of persuadable senators to support it.
So it seemed notable when an aide to Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) adopted Cornyn’s strategy to dissuade protesters camped external Burr’s DC office on Monday.
Of course there is a Senate health care bill. But after months of painful legislating, with no promise that Republicans can deliver on their seven-year promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, this is apparently the best they can achieve.