If ObamaCare repeal fails, blame all the false promises
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In news that’s hardly surprising, there’s a tough road ahead for Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.

After the American Health Care Act’s (ACHA) razor-thin passage that came after weeks of unrest from all sides and tedious negotiations, the Senate took things up and managed to produce a bill that even fewer people liked.

As Congress returns from the July Fourth recess, several senators have signaled that the future of the effort is in jeopardy or even dead on arrival.

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If you have been listening to popular narratives about this ongoing mess, you may be inclined to believe that conservatives like the House Freedom Caucus members who initially stalled the AHCA are most at fault for tanking the bill. There’s already been plenty of hand-wringing and scorn aimed at the small cadre of senators — and representatives before them — who did not believe the Republican bills were conservative enough to earn their support.

 

Unfortunately, this version of the story misses the point entirely. Congress passing an Obamacare repeal is hardly revolutionary. They famously voted about 40 times to repeal various portions of it over the last seven years. What's more, the types of packages currently under consideration — and more substantive versions thereof — have already been passed, with support from the very same members who are now opposed.

In 2015, the House and Senate passed H.R. 3762, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015, or as it was more commonly known, the Price Bill. This bill ended Medicaid expansion and many of Obamacare’s taxes but, like the AHCA and Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), left intact the Title I regulations like guaranteed coverage for preexisting conditions and other things.

Representatives like Charlie Dent (R-Penn.) and Senators like Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGOP ramps up attacks on SALT deduction provision Republicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall White House looks to rein in gas prices ahead of busy travel season MORE (R-W.Va.) are now a solid "no" on anything even closely resembling repeal and have snarled negotiations by objecting to Medicaid rollback and ending Title 1 regulations.

But for Dent, Capito and other Tuesday Group moderates, not only was there little worry when they voted for the Price repeal plan, most of them also supported at least four other bills that would roll back even more of Obamacare, including the infamous Title 1 regulations that have been a key part of driving up premium costs.

Yet, to hear leadership and some administration officials in recent weeks, the real problem is the conservatives who are uneasy about supporting “repeal” bills that keep major portions of Obamacare intact under Republican control of government.

To be clear, the House's AHCA and the Senate's BCRA are imperfect and leave plenty of reason for thoughtful opposition. It requires no small measure of trust to believe that all will be well after this first step, with future cost-reduction measures being passed either as independent bills or via administrative changes. It’s hard to blame those disinclined to trust Republican leadership on this count.

As negotiations continue to falter, the narrative that the conservatives who want the repeal they were promised and voted for over the last eight years are the ones to blame is specious and insulting.

For conservative Representatives who believed the promises of almost every one of their colleagues who ran on repealing Obamacare, root and branch, two bills that largely continue the basic structure and regulations of Obamacare are nothing if not a disappointment.

But, many will protest that a disappointment is the best we can do. After all, unlike the majority of Obama-era repeal bills, these are being done in a special procedure that allows only so much to happen. Besides, the argument goes, the more far-reaching ideas advocated by conservatives will simply never get a majority.

All of the above is likely true, but we cannot allow the media and leadership to ignore the most important reason why full repeal can’t get a majority: Too many members of Congress apparently never meant it when voting all these years to repeal.

Jonathan Bydlak is the founder and president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, an advocate for lower federal spending. He's also the creator of SpendingTracker.org. He is a fiscal policy expert and also served as director of fundraising on Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign. Follow him on Twitter @jbydlak and @Reduce_Spending.


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