On Monday night, Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas hammered the final nails into Senate Republicans’ health care coffin. President Donald Trump quickly tweeted he wanted to find a way to reanimate this monster. As Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein learned, that would be a bad idea.
By Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he is content to let the Affordable Care Act self-destruct. That’s irresponsible. Trump is a Republican president, but he is not just the president of Republicans. He has a responsibility to lead. The “dealmaker” has failed to bring Republicans and Democrats together, and now his response is to walk away and let the ACA fail, potentially leaving millions of American without health insurance. Not acceptable. And more important, not presidential.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needed 50 out of the 52 Republicans in the Senate to vote for the debacle that was Trumpcare 2.0. The latest version would have created a two-tier health insurance system that would have priced patients with pre-existing conditions or even moderate health-care needs out of the insurance markets.
McConnell had tried to trade with conservatives to find his votes, but strict conservatives were wary. Moran was an example of that. So McConnell announced the bill was dead, but he intended to push a vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act with the promise of a new plan within two years. That, also, is irresponsible.
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On Tuesday, three moderate Republicans – Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – came to the same conclusion. They said they would not vote to repeal without a replacement. Capito wrote on Twitter, “I did not come to Washington to hurt people.”
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is dealing with a brain cancer diagnosis, has called on Republicans to work with Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York has said the same thing. And Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich has continued to press bipartisanship on this issue. Congressional Republicans would do well to listen to Republican governors. They are not in a protective bubble. Many of them understand that drastic Medicaid cuts will either have to be countered by more state investment – something many states cannot afford – or allow people to be priced out of health insurance.
Republicans need to accept that repealing the ACA is complicated. It always was. Democrats risked and lost their hold on Congress because of it. Republicans could face the same fate. But at stake here is something more important than which political party dominates Congress. Millions of Americans now have health insurance because of the ACA. For all its flaws, more people have access to health care.
That should be the starting point for Congress. Improve or replace the parts of the ACA that do not work but keep the components that do. Republicans could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat if they work with Democrats. They promised to show they could govern if they controlled Congress and the White House. So far they have not.
House Republicans went out on a limb to support a bill that would have left 23 million fewer Americans with health insurance. They will be holding that stinky diaper when they face voters in 2018. Senate Republicans need to be smarter than that.
But more important than the partisan politics of Washington are the millions of Americans whose access to health care hangs in the balance.
The monster that was Trumpcare 2.0 is dead. Republicans should bury it. Democrats can bring the shovels.