Republicans’ last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare was always a moonshot.
A bill proposed by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) looks like it doesn’t have enough support in the Senate to pass on a party-line vote. Republican leaders were trying to rush something through by Sept. 30.
And now, we find, the measure is unpopular with the broader electorate.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that more than half of Americans (56 percent) prefer Obamacare to the latest GOP plan. Only 33 percent prefer the bill that Senate Republicans, panicked by a month back home with their base and no Obamacare repeal to show, abruptly put on the table this month.
Worse for Republicans: Roughly twice as many people strongly prefer the current law to the Republicans’ plan, 42 to 22 percent.
These aren’t necessarily gut reflexes, either. The Post-ABC poll described three aspects of the Cassidy-Graham proposal to voters before asking what they prefer: its elimination of the requirement for nearly all Americans to have health insurance, the phasing out of federal funds to help lower- and moderate-income people buy health insurance, and letting states replace federal rules on health coverage with their own rules.
Of course, partisanship does color the way voters see this bill. Unsurprisingly, Democrats are supportive of the current health-care law — in all, 85 percent of them prefer it to the Republican plan, with 70 percent strongly preferring it. Large majorities of urbanites, people under 40 and nonwhites also favor Obamacare to the GOP alternative.
Republicans favor the new plan by a nearly a 3-to-1 margin, 66 to 23 percent, over the current law. But note that nearly a quarter of their party doesn’t support this bill, which is the closest thing to an Obamacare repeal that Congress has seriously considered.
Republicans are trapped right where they’ve been all along: struggling to pass a bill that’s unpopular within ideologically wide wings of their party and unpopular with a sizable swath of the general public. At one point, some reputable polls found an earlier Republican health-care bill was about as popular as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, Obamacare and big-government ideas like single-payer health insurance have been getting more popular.
Republicans were always going to be up against a perception problem on Obamacare repeal. “Government should get out of people’s health care!” is an easy sell for a politician, but it’s a much harder sell as a policy. Taking government out of people’s health care will take away some people’s health insurance — millions, according to official estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Public opinion didn’t stop Republicans from voting on unpopular health-care bills earlier this year. Republicans may try again early next week to pass this bill, given it’s their last chance for a while to do something on health care. It’s likelier than not it will fail, given that Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) oppose it and two other senators have serious concerns about it.
That would mean Obamacare would be the law of the land for the foreseeable future. And more than half of America is okay with that.
Scott Clement and Emily Guskin contributed to this report.
The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted Sept. 18-21 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults reached on cellular and landline phones, with overall results carrying a plus or minus 3.5-point margin of sampling error.
The full wording of the question is: “There’s a new Republican proposal to replace the current federal health care law, known as Obamacare. It would (end the national requirement for nearly all Americans to have health insurance), (phase out the use of federal funds to help lower and moderate-income people buy health insurance), and (let states replace federal rules on health care coverage with their own rules). What do you prefer: the current federal health care law, or this Republican plan to replace it?” Phrases in parentheses were read in a random order to respondents.