Republicans must be feeling beach season, because they all have their flip-flops on.
The prospect that the Senate might vote on a version of 2015 legislation that repealed many parts of Obamacare with a two-year delay to replace it down the road has key Republicans in the health care debate doing a 180 — or even a full 360, in some cases. All but one current GOP senator voted for the repeal-and-delay bill, which was vetoed by then-President Obama, in 2015. Some are saying they won’t vote for it again, while others in favor of going in this direction a few months ago insisted that Republican pass a replacement the Affordable Care Act instead of just repealing it.
The squabbling over whether Republicans are being hypocrites for backing down from a previous vote highlights the level of disarray over their next move on health care — and just a few days before the GOP Senate is set to take an initial vote to move a yet-to-be determined Obamacare repeal bill.
McConnell’s Decision To Push A Vote On Repeal-And-Delay Scrambled Everyone’s Position
When the replacement legislation the Senate GOP had been voting on, the Better Care Reconciliation, suffered what appeared to be a fatal blow in the form of four defections, McConnell surprised everyone Monday night by saying a vote on the 2015 bill would happen again.
“As of today we simply do not have 50 senators who can agree on what ought to replace the existing law,” McConnell said Tuesday. “What we do have is a vote that many of us made two years ago—at a time when the President of the United States would not sign the legislation—that would repeal Obamacare, and, with a two-year delay, give us the opportunity to build something better on a bipartisan basis.”
Senate conservatives, including BCRA-killers Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), embraced the decision. But GOP moderates and even rank-and-file were less eager to take that vote, particularly as the Congressional Budget Office found that the legislation would result in 32 million more people uninsured.
Moderates Who Voted For Repeal-and-Delay 2015 Are Against It Now
By lunchtime Tuesday, three more moderate Republicans had killed this idea. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the one constant here, was one of two GOP votes against the legislation in 2015. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK) quickly came under attack for refusing to vote for a bill they approved of in the past.
Capito, on a radio show Thursday, defended the decision by pointing to how messy the seven months Republicans have spent working on their replacement have been.
“Circumstances have changed,” she said. “I’ve seen how we’ve struggled with this. I have seen how the different ideas and panic that sets through with people when they don’t know what they’re looking at, when they don’t know what they’re facing.”
GOPers Pushing Repeal-And-Delay Now Dismissed It Earlier This Year
Ironically, some of the GOP senators who are cheering the decision to bring the 2015 bill for a vote now are responsible for it not being their repeal vehicle in the first place this year, as McConnell initially intended to do.
Paul, a vocal opponent of BCRA, said this week it was “a great step forward that we plan to take up the 2015 repeal bill instead.” Back in January, he said a replacement needed to happen simultaneously and even called President Trump to get him on the same page.
I just spoke to @realDonaldTrump and he fully supports my plan to replace Obamacare the same day we repeal it. The time to act is now.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) January 7, 2017
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) also bashed a repeal-and-delay approach this winter and even signed on to legislative language that stressed Republicans needed give themselves time to pass a replacement alongside with a repeal.
“We’d be better off just to vote for repeal and force the two sides to get together in a bipartisan way and pass something where you have a transition period,” Corker said Thursday.
Is That Bill Really A Better Deal For Conservatives?
The conservative resistance to the GOP replacement bill has focused on the insurer mandates it leaves in place, which Republicans blame for increasing premiums under the ACA. Before Monday, conservatives were fighting over whether a proposed amendment to BCRA by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) went far enough in letting insurers not comply with the mandates.
Why then would they want to vote on a bill that leaves all the ACA insurer mandates and would double premiums by 2026, according to the CBO.
“The 2015 language doesn’t repeal any regs that are the principle driver for premiums skyrocketing,” Cruz admitted this week.
Oh, and Trump Has Flip-Flopped Too
Right before McConnell’s Monday night statement, Trump said on Twitter Republicans should do just repeal instead.
Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2017
But according to Capito, Trump was soon back to emphasizing his preference for a replace-now plan.
“The president reinforced this [Wednesday] with all of us. He kept saying repeal and replace, repeal and replace,” Capito said.