First, let’s start by talking about who won’t be to blame: Senators Mike Lee or Rand Paul. Last night Brit Hume of Fox News tweeted this:
Mike Lee now says he'll vote no on the Senate GOP Healthcare bill, joining Rand Paul in in acting to let Obamacare stand.
— Brit Hume (@brithume) July 18, 2017
I have been a fan of Brit Hume’s for years. But I find it astounding that Hume criticized only people like Senators Lee and Paul, who actually would repeal ObamaCare entirely if given the opportunity. If there were 535 Mike Lees in Congress, ObamaCare would have been repealed in January. Where, I wondered, was the criticism of those who voted to repeal in 2015 — but won’t now? Why blame the fiercest opponents of ObamaCare, and give a total pass to people who hypocritically voted for repeal in 2015 only because they knew Obama would veto it?
Let’s review: in 2015, there was a bill sent to Obama’s desk called the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015. It didn’t repeal every aspect of ObamaCare, but it did a lot. Exchanges: gone. Subsidies: phased out. Penalty for not getting health insurance or providing it to your employees: gone. “Cadillac tax”: gone. Medicaid expansion: phased out.
Rather than the tinkering we have seen recently, this was a real move towards repeal. It passed the Senate 52-47. But, of course, it was vetoed by Obama — and the people who voted for it knew it would be.
Now, we have a President in office who has said he would sign such a bill. Rand Paul introduced a version in January. But his bill has been stalled in committee for half a year, while Republicans have spun their wheels trying to install a big-government replacement. For the most part, their efforts have resulted in bills that would put the GOP stamp of approval on the basic structure of ObamaCare.
Why hasn’t the GOP passed the 2015 bill? Clearly, because there are people who voted for a repeal bill in 2015 who never intended that bill to become law. Yet nobody in the media has been asking who these people are. And (until now), leadership has not forced the issue.
So when the news first broke last night that the latest repeal effort was dead, I raged at the leadership and the media, for hiding the identities of those people. If I had a full-time job in Big Media (ugh), I would track down everyone who voted for the 2015 ObamaCare repeal bill to see if they’ll still vote for it.
But it seems Big Media may not have to do the work. Mitch McConnell may do it for them. Events have move quickly since Mike Lee made his announcement last night — and as reported by Joe Cunningham, Mitch McConnell has announced that some version of the 2015 bill is going to be put to a vote:
— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) July 18, 2017
Hallelujah! This is fantastic.
If the GOP is not full of hypocrites, the bill will pass. Of the 52 people who voted for the 2015 bill, 48 are still in the Senate. (Susan Collins voted against it.) Of the four Republicans who voted for that bill in 2015 and are now gone from the Senate, three have been replaced by Republicans — Sen. Coats (replaced by Republican Todd Young), Sen. Sessions (replaced by Republican Luther Strange), and Sen. Vitter (replaced by Republican John Kennedy).
As long as those three are on board — and long as none of the 48 change their vote, the 2015 bill will easily pass again, with 51 votes.
Now, I heard you laugh when you read that phrase “[i]f the GOP is not full of hypocrites.” That’s OK. I laughed while writing it. I am frankly stunned that McConnell is bringing some version of the 2015 bill to a vote, because I think the GOP is indeed full of hypocrites. And those hypocrites don’t want to be put in the position of voting against a bill they don’t like, but voted for in 2015 because they knew it would never become law. I predict there will be a lot of pressure on McConnell to reverse course and not put the 2015 bill to a vote.
But if he does, we’ll know exactly whom to blame.
Here’s my question: if Mike Lee and Rand Paul vote for repeal, and some other senator or senators change their vote from 2015 and vote against ObamaCare repeal . . .
. . . will Brit Hume still blame Mike Lee and Rand Paul?