Republican lawmakers went immediately to battle on Wednesday, taking the first steps towards fulfilling the party’s promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Vice President-elect Mike Pence took a trip to Capitol Hill to discuss legislative strategy with congressional Republicans.
“The American people voted decisively for a better future for health care in this country, and we are determined to give them that,” Pence said.
The Senate waded into the water first, voting 51 to 48 to take up a budget resolution that will allow them to start repealing some of the major Obamacare provisions while limiting the Democrats’ ability to filibuster.
Unfortunately, while Republicans have the pedal to the metal as it pertains to repealing Obamacare, they are divided about what to put in its place. Some, including Sen. Rand Paul, have denounced the prevailing strategy, which is to repeal the law now, set the effective date several years in the future, and then work on passing a new healthcare package. They warn that doing it that way will accelerate the Obamacare death spiral and leave Republicans taking the blame for a national healthcare crisis.
Republican leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan, however, are committed to making sure that no one has their health insurance yanked away without notice.
“The point is, in 2017, we don’t want people to be caught with nothing,” he said. “We want to make sure that there’s an orderly transition so that the rug is not pulled out from under the families who are currently struggling under Obamacare while we bring relief.”
Democrats, meanwhile, think Republicans have promised their way into a trap. By vowing to keep certain Obamacare benefits – coverage for pre-existing conditions the biggest of them – they may have painted themselves into a corner. How do you keep such a provision without keeping the individual mandate in place?
As much as we’d like to stay positive about the coming administration, it’s all too easy to see how things could go wrong on Obamacare. Frankly, it’s not encouraging to see Republicans divided on the plan moving forward. Of all issues, this is one they should have been prepared for. The consequences of failure – both politically and practically – cannot be overstated.
On the other hand, we must remember that almost everything we hear about this is being filtered through the lens of a biased media, so there may be less Republican uncertainty than we’re told there is. The Democrats are going to fight this repeal every step of the way, and they’re going to fight dirty.
Let’s hope our side is ready for battle.