Of course, GOP Senators have had six years to come up with an alternative, but preferred twiddling their thumbs and obstructing productive legislation.
Not all GOP Senators are on board with a quick death for President Obama’s signature accomplishment known as Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act). At least four of them are expressing doubts, based on the fact that Republican leaders have no plan for a replacement.
GOP Senators can only afford for two to break ranks with the party. That would create a 50-50 tie on the question, which would be broken by Vice President Mike Pence — and there’s little doubt where he stands on the issue.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — a moderate, but usually a milquetoast in opposing her party leadership —weighed in early, expressing her reservations at the beginning of December. In an interview with the Portland Press Herald, she said she might not support repeal if a suitable, detailed replacement isn’t offered at the same time. A lot of her constituents have gained coverage under the ACA. As she said, in reference to Maine:
You can’t just drop insurance for 84,000 people.
Sen. Rand Paul, (R-KY) voiced similar concerns, with an emphasis on the budgetary impact. According to The Fiscal Times, Paul has pitched opposition to the repeal to “arch conservatives” in the House of Representatives whose primary concern is limiting spending and the national debt. The Senator is on board with eventual repeal, but recently wrote this argument:
We should repeal Obamacare, but partial repeal will only accelerate the current chaos and may eventually lead to calls for a taxpayer bailout of insurance companies.
On Thursday, Paul told reporters:
We’ve got about 100 bills to replace Obamacare, OK? We need to put together the best of them into one bill. You can’t wait six months or a year and leave people floundering about without an alternative.
Of course, GOP Senators have had the last six years to come up with an alternative, but preferred twiddling their thumbs, noisily obstructing productive legislation, and voting repeatedly on repealing Obamacare when they knew their efforts would be vetoed by the sitting president. So, good luck with that! Their constituents are watching while giving them an earful about why they want to keep Obamacare.
Nevertheless, that’s two down. But two others have also shown a willingness to thwart an early repeal — giving a little cushion for those in full-out opposition.
Also on Thursday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) voiced his concerns on MSNBC. He said:
I think it would not be the right path for us to repeal ObamaCare without laying out a path forward…
I think when we repeal ObamaCare, we need to have the solution in place moving forward. … I do not think we can just repeal ObamaCare and say we’ll give the answer two years from now.
But the coup de grâce came on Friday morning when Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters:
Repeal and replacement should take place simultaneously.
These GOP senators have a real echo chamber going on, to the delight and gratification of those who support Obamacare. They are receiving back-up from Republican governors, who would have to deal most immediately with the fallout from depriving tens of thousands of people of healthcare coverage.
In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich expressed worry for hundreds of thousands of his state’s residents who gained coverage through the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid:
Let’s just say they got rid of it and didn’t replace it with anything, what happens to those 700,000 people? What happens to drug treatment, what happens to mental health counseling?
Kasich is going to Washington, D.C. to do something about it. On January 19th, he’ll speak to a governors’ forum on Obamacare, organized by GOP Senators. They can expect to get an earful.
A more surprising voice comes from Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder. The governor spoke to The Detroit News about the more than 642,000 residents who gained coverage under the act:
I think it’s important that as they look at the Affordable Care Act … I hope they carefully look at the success we’ve had in Michigan, because we didn’t just do Medicaid expansion.
We put requirements for health and wellness on the front ends, and personal responsibility. We’re seeing a huge increase in coverage.
Surprised by that stance? Think how GOP Senators must feel. The ground is slowly eroding from under their feet. All the Democrats have to do is hang tough, stay united, and watch the effort unravel — due to Republican politicians who suddenly realize that they are the ones responsible for the consequences and will be the recipients of whatever backlash unfolds.
Don’t say good-by to your Obamacare just yet. Given the chaos in the GOP, you may never have to.