Republicans need to prove they can govern, that they can follow through on their most vociferous campaign promise for the past seven years: to get rid of Obamacare. They already failed to do that once. Next week, they'll be back in their districts facing constituents, and the month-long August recess is just around the corner.
At this point, any bill — even one that probably can't pass the Senate and one that breaks virtually every promise Republicans made about open governance — is better than no bill.
“The rush suggests House Republicans are trying to get this done before their break, so they can go home and say: 'Look! We tried!' " said Molly Reynolds, a congressional expert with the Brookings Institution.
Certainly, Republicans want to change health-care policy. Pretty much every single Republican in Congress today got there after campaigning, in some form, on repealing and replacing Obamacare.
And Republican leaders have been selling this particular bill as an imperfect vehicle for that: Just get something through the House of Representatives, and the Senate will amend what parts you don't like, we'll hash out an agreement, and then we'll send something more agreeable to moderate Republicans to President Trump's desk.
But there are still two, three, four more levels to go before this becomes law. And House Republicans are on the verge of passing a bill that is less likely to get through those levels than more. When it comes to changes to private insurance, this bill is more conservative than the one that couldn't pass the House in March.
Specifically, it would allow states to apply for waivers to get out of requiring insurance companies to offer plans that have a minimum number of benefits covered. It would also allow states to apply for waivers to essentially let insurance companies charge as much as they want for some people with preexisting conditions, essentially pricing them out of the market. (Health experts are skeptical the $8 billion this bill provides to subsidize health care for people with preexisting conditions would make up for the loss of coverage: “Not even close,” said Karen Pollitz with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.)
As a result, this bill could face major problems in the Senate — even more than the original version did.
Assuming no Democrats vote for the bill (a very safe assumption), Senate Republicans can afford to lose only two votes. Last time, we counted more than 10 senators who expressed skepticism about the legislation — including six moderate senators from states such as Ohio, Colorado, West Virginia and Maine who didn't like how much this legislation cuts Medicaid. (This bill does nothing to address that, either.)
Even if this got to the White House, Trump may not be supportive of its limits on people with preexisting conditions.
Basically, there are so many “ifs” about this legislation's future that it doesn't make sense that Republicans are rushing it through now. Unless you consider this from a political angle: They can at least say they tried, and then, if Obamacare never gets changed, they can share the blame with the Senate and, perhaps, the president.
At its core, this legislation says: Government should get out of health care. And that's consistent with the philosophy of many Republicans, who would rather have cheaper health care than more expansive health care.
We have no way of knowing how Americans will feel if this becomes their new health-care reality. A late April Washington Post-ABC News poll found that large majorities of Americans oppose what this bill does.
Almost a decade ago (!) Democrats passed their own health-care legislation, and it ended up costing the majority in the House ever since. Back then, now-Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) decried how fast Democrats pushed the bill through (a process that took almost a year).
“We shouldn't rush this thing through just to rush it through for some artificial deadline,” Ryan said at the time. “Let's get this thing done right.”
This is as artificial as it gets. And it appears to be for purely political reasons.