Since We Have A “Pause” On Health Care, Let’s Break Down Where Everybody Stands

Let’s start by offering our sincerest wishes for a swift recovery to Arizona Senator John McCain following surgery on a blood clot behind his eye.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying until McCain can return, the Senate “will defer consideration of the Better Care Act.” That reflects, in part, how razor thin the prospects are for passage. As of now, there are two confirmed Republican “no” votes, meaning without McCain, the bill would not pass.

Rand Paul is out. Why? The Senate’s health care plan does not repeal Obamacare outright. (He’s right. It just makes Obamacare really crappy.)

Susan Collins is out. Why? She says it’s got nothing to do with Obamacare. Her objection is it rips the heart out of Medicaid, something that’s been around far longer.

Bottom line: if it winds up being just those 2 against, the bill passes. One more, it doesn’t.

Which should answer the question why did Ted Cruz and Mike Lee’s ludicrous amendment that nobody really likes except Ted Cruz and Mike Lee make it into the revised bill? Because it had to. They both have well-earned reputations for being obstinate jerks. So do the math: the 2 of them + Paul or Collins = the bill would’ve been finished. So it’s in. Even though it’ll allow plans with no preventive care, no minimum coverage, no prescription drug coverage, no maternity coverage, no protection against pre-existing conditions, and yes, they even allow your insurance company to stop covering you if you get really sick. Over the week-end, two huge health insurance lobbying groups issued an unusual statement calling the Cruz amendment “unworkable in any form.”

President Trump meanwhile has made it clear he’ll sign anything. He’s got “pen in hand” he said in a Tweet, just put it on his desk…

So now Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence are running around trying to pick off the remaining “undecided” Republican Senators one-by-one by cutting side deals. That’s why you see Ohio Senator Rob Portman getting the $45-billion in funds for opioid treatment he originally asked for vs. $2-billion. Or why there’s a weird provision in the bill that could only possibly apply to Alaska, giving it access to around a billion dollars in funds. That’s aimed at Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski. For the record, neither has yet said they are now on board.

Democrats did a lot of this same kind of thing in order to get Obamacare passed. There’s nothing wrong with it in and of itself, it’s called politics. And that’s why there’s still a real good shot even after all these delays, and all this dissatisfaction and all this wrangling , it’ll pass.

But let’s say it doesn’t; some Republican Senator somewhere (maybe Nevada’s Dean Heller) shows some conscience or a backbone. Then what happens?

One of 3 things:

• Republicans just repeal Obamacare (and say they will replace it “later” which will mean never). We go back to health care the way it used to be. Trump says he’d support this too. Strangely, it might have a better chance of passing than what’s on the table now.

• Republicans do nothing. That leaves it up to the President whether to keep paying cost-sharing subsidies to insurance companies, or stop and allow Obamacare to “explode” (as he loves to say). The end game in that scenario, according to the President, is Democrats come groveling to him, begging for a fix.

• Republicans preempt that scenario by inviting Democrats to the table to work on a bipartisan bill. Democrats have indicated they would participate (in fact, in distant corners of the Capitol, some are already working with Republicans on alternate plans.) This could result in a really good bill. They wouldn’t need Ted Cruz’ vote anymore, so could do away with his ridiculousness.

It’s also far less likely to happen. Why? Because to this President, and congressional leadership, it’s all about racking up wins and then gloating. There’s nothing more important than making sure losers are painfully crushed. In this vision, there is no room for compromise, even if it’s what’s best for the country.

(This story originally appeared in The Chaos Report newsletter.

Peabody award winning journalist. Streaming media pioneer. Played @ CBGB back in the day. Editor-In-Chief "The Chaos Report"

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