The GOP-led House passed a partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act by a 217-to-213 margin, sending it to the Senate, where GOP members were already throwing cold water on a bill passed with no Congressional Budget Office score or real understanding of its implications. The picture of House Republicans wildly celebrating the bill, which will never become law and which, according to the CBO, would remove 24 million people from coverage and bestow a huge tax cut on the very, very rich, may come back to haunt them.
President Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) claimed “victory,” but their celebrations may be short-lived. A number of moderate members in districts that Hillary Clinton won were compelled to vote for a bill that the public has overwhelmingly rejected — at least according to polls. The biggest problems for Trump and the GOP (aside from getting the Senate and House to agree upon and sign something) are the decidedly unpopulist features of the bill — tax cuts for the super-rich, higher premiums for older and more rural voters and a rollback of Medicaid that allowed millions of Americans to afford coverage. If Democrats are able to portray this as a cruel repudiation of Trump’s promise to take care of the “forgotten men and women,” both he and the GOP are due for their political comeuppance.
The Trumpcare legislation, if it passes, will become an issue in every governor’s race and in hundreds of state legislative races, where Republicans have dominated. GOP state candidates on the ballot will have to make clear their position — do they favor “opt-out” or no? Do they take responsibility for high-risk pools that, according to experts, are woefully underfunded by the American Health Care Act? Two gubernatorial races this year — one in New Jersey and the other in Virginia — will be early indications as to how this is all playing out.
The congressional race in Georgia’s 6th District — already a hyped, multimillion-dollar race — is about to get even more attention. Democrat Jon Ossoff will force Republican Karen Handel to state her position and then slam her and other Republicans for cavalier, irresponsible governance that may harm millions of Americans.
As House members now head out to recess, Democratic protesters (the “Resistance”) will make their show of force. We will see whether that, and the belated CBO score, is enough to rattle both House and Senate Republicans. Republicans have shown that they are competent enough to destroy the Obama legacy. But what they have yet to show is whether they have something better — or will themselves pay the price for unbridled arrogance and inattention to the public’s belief that Americans really do deserve health-care coverage, regardless of their ability to pay.