In a stinging rebuke to President Obama, the House voted to “fix” Obamacare, allowing insurers to keep offering the plans canceled by Obamacare indefinitely to not only existing customers, but also future ones. The vote was 261 to 157, with 39 Democrats joining with the Republicans.
After the vote, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) put out a statement declaring, “The president broke his word, had a chance to fix the problem, and only did more damage to his credibility. Today, the House made a big, bipartisan statement about the need to make things right.” The House majority leader’s spokesman Rory Cooper told Right Turn, “More and more Democrats are finding that the law they helped enact is actually causing real world harm. As more problems with Obamacare hurt the American people, I expect even more Democrats will join Republicans in opposing it.”
Meanwhile, a leadership aide not authorized to speak on the record wisecracked, “We commend House Democrats for undermining their own law.” He is right in that insofar as, if the bill passes, incentives to keep younger healthier people out of the exchanges will undermine those exchanges, leaving sicker, older people and insurance carriers with unexpected costs.
Now we will see what happens in the Senate. The strong Democratic vote for legislative relief in the House may well induce the Senate to pass its own, more limited fix. If so, the two houses will need to reconcile their bills — possibly opening up even more aspects of the bill. This, of course, is precisely what Republicans want to do. The inevitability that once cloaked Obamacare is gone; the real potential for further revisions now exists.
In the short run, it is a slap at the president and a rare rebuke of the Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. As news outlets reported earlier, both Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Pelosi met with Democrats to try to keep them onboard. Well, now it is every man and woman for his or herself.
It is also an implicit rebuke to the shutdown squad. What shook loose Democrats was not the threat of the shutdown, but what establishment Republicans banked on, the unworkability of Obamacare itself. Only since the shutdown has been swept away has the GOP regained its standing, made headway toward eventually repealing Obamacare and dealt a significant blow to the president.
Now, let’s see if the Republicans fill in the missing piece, providing an alternative to Obamacare. In his statement, the speaker asserted that “the real solution is to scrap the president’s fundamentally-flawed health care law and focus on effective, patient-centered reforms that will protect all Americans from this train wreck.” So where is that Republican alternative?
Republicans may not want to offer their own complicated bill in the final weeks of the year, but there is no reason why they can’t move in two steps. Immediately, the House could pass its short-term alternative to replace Obamacare, with protection for pre-existing conditions (perhaps in high risk pools), a leveled tax field for individual and employer insurance and permission for interstate insurance sales. Then next year it can offer a comprehensive alternative. That concept works now that Obamacare has become an onerous measure affecting even those who had insurance. This is a big win for Obamacare critics, but their work has just begun.