While the cloud of suspicion surrounding Donald Trump continues to thicken, and the smell of treason grows ever more pungent, Paul Ryan and the GOP continue to push their healthcare bill down America’s throats, despite only 24 percent approval for it and the fact that Trumpcare would actually cover fewer people than would a simple repeal of Obamacare. In either case, over 20 million people would likely lose their health insurance, and older Americans would see their healthcare premiums skyrocket. Indeed, for many older Americans, health care would become cost prohibitive.
In order to offset the ballooning premiums for older people, the Republicans did agree to a sweetener earlier this week to appeal to moderates. It would create a fund of $85 billion for tax credits for older people to pay for their premiums, but the contours of that slush fund are unknown. In fact, the House bill kicks it to the Senate to figure it out. For low-income people, the fund would not likely change the outcome: They still wouldn’t be able to afford health insurance.
As of last night, Paul Ryan does not have the votes. He can afford to lose no more than 22 votes, and as far as the public roll call goes, around 29 Congress people are voting no, while another 15 are leaning no. In fact, after President Trump spoke to House Republicans yesterday, they had 10 more “no” votes than before he spoke to them. The art of the deal, right?
Many of those “no” votes come from the Freedom Caucus, hard-liners who want a complete and total repeal of Obamacare. As of last night, there was talk that Paul Ryan and Donald Trump were attempting to woo those 30 or so members by stripping “essential benefits” from their health plan. In other words, the Republican health care plan would make the most important parts of a health care plan optional, things like: maternity coverage, prescription drug coverage, hospitalization coverage, and emergency services.
Ultimately, stripping essential benefits — basically allowing health insurance companies to offer shitty insurance — might be enough to woo the Freedom Caucus, although it might not be because there’s still another provision they want, and so far, Paul Ryan won’t budge. Even if it were enough, it’s not even certain if procedurally, stripping essential benefits would be allowed under a reconciliation bill (and if it’s not, the Senate would need 60 votes instead of 50 to pass it, and the Senate will never get 60 votes on this).
According to a Freedom Caucus member (via Ryan Lizza from the New Yorker), there’s a 75 percent chance the bill goes down in flames today.
This is a nice overview of where the healthcare debate stands from the perspective of the Freedom Caucus. (Note the comment about Trump.) pic.twitter.com/CHHNvFK524— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) March 23, 2017
Even if Paul Ryan makes a lot of deals with individual Congressman to get it through the House, it would face a much more difficult hurdle in the Senate, which is more immune to the political pressure of what may be a lame duck President, who is currently under criminal investigation. The bill, as currently written, would never get through the Senate. It just wouldn’t.
I’m not even sure that getting this bill through the Senate is an urgent priority for the President; it seems like they just want to ram it through the House so that Trump can declare a political victory, and I guess he thinks a political victory in the House would give him the momentum and capital to push it through the Senate. He may also believe that a victory in the House will magically erase the criminal investigation against him.
Conversely, if Trump loses in the House, his agenda is pretty much shot. Basically, the “dealmaker” will be proven a bust, and his ability to pass his budget and cut those taxes may be severely hampered. It would be a humiliating loss for the President, and that’s what liberals are really clamoring for here, and that’s exactly why I worry that the health care bill might ultimately squeak through today: House Republicans don’t want to humiliate their boss and cost themselves an opportunity to enact the rest of their agenda, and they really don’t want to give a victory to the Democrats.