Adam Brandon is the president of FreedomWorks.
The “swamp” is winning. Republicans are now breaking frequent promises to repeal Obamacare.
Last week, the Senate Budget Committee rolled out the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the upper chamber’s version of Obamacare repeal. Except the bill only modifies Obamacare subsidies, bails out insurance companies, likely keeps Medicaid expansion and does nothing to lower premiums.
For more than seven years, Republicans ran on promises to repeal Obamacare. Voters gave the GOP a majority in the House in 2010, a majority in the Senate in 2014 and handed them control of the White House in 2016. One of the largest factors in each of these election cycles was a promise to repeal Obamacare.
We all know the problems with Obamacare. Health insurance premiums have continued to rise — and in some states have tripled — since Obamacare became law. A recent report from the Department of Health and Human Services showed that average monthly health insurance premiums in the 39 states that use HealthCare.gov, the federal Obamacare exchange, jumped from $232 in 2013 to $476 in 2017, a 105 percent increase. It’s no wonder enrollments have come in below projections.
In 2015, the Senate actually improved a House-passed Obamacare repeal bill, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, by getting rid of more of the 2010 law. Only two Republicans voted against, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) and then-Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.), who is no longer in Congress.
Four senators — Ted Cruz (Tex.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) — have announced their opposition to the Senate bill because the bill falls short of Republicans’ promises to repeal Obamacare. But others — Sens. Dean Heller (Nev.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Susan Collins (Maine), Jerry Moran (Kan.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) — have announced that they will vote against the bill for very different reasons.
The opposition mounted by Heller and his moderate colleagues is a symptom of Republican hypocrisy that has reared its ugly head. After all, Heller voted for a full repeal of Obamacare, including the law’s costly Title I regulations and Medicaid expansion in January 2011, when he was a member of the House. And in December 2015, as a member of the Senate, Heller voted for the scaled-back version of the repeal that was supposed to serve as the baseline for repeal under a Republican president.
But the Nevada Republican isn’t the only hypocrite in the Senate Republican conference. Other Republican moderates who voted for the 2015 repeal bill have walked back their votes in this Congress to some degree, including Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Capito and Portman.
After her vote for the 2015 Obamacare repeal, Capito, for example, said: “Americans deserve a health-care system that works for them and Obamacare is not it.”
Similarly, Cassidy campaigned on Obamacare repeal: “By definition, a law that creates over 150 boards, bureaucracies and commissions does not empower patients,” he said while running for the Senate in 2014. “Repealing this law is the first step to enacting real health-care reform that lowers costs and expands access to quality health care for all Americans.”
Does the Republican Party even know what it stands for anymore? Clearly, nearly a decade’s worth of promises to repeal Obamacare doesn’t really matter to many Senate Republicans. What good is a majority that doesn’t live up to what its members say they’re going to do?
Now there’s word that Senate leaders are considering retaining even more parts of Obamacare as a sop to moderates, including some of the 2010 law’s taxes and rolling back the proposed Medicaid modernization. That’s not the way to get a bill across the finish line. If Senate Republican leaders continue to placate moderates in the conference and ignore conservatives, they’ll have an even bigger fight on their hands.
One can only hope that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and others will drive this bill in a conservative direction. The grass-roots conservative activists who knock on doors and make calls for candidates every election cycle aren’t going to take any more excuses. They want Republicans to defeat the swamp and repeal Obamacare.