GOP faces its Vietnam moment with health care vote

“We’d like to do something and something’s better than nothing.”

And this concludes the lesson on how a dead-and-gone effort to repeal Obamacare rolled back to life.

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts’ response to the question yesterday revealed anew that the effort is born entirely of a concern for the political futures of the men of the U.S. Senate.

Coincidentally, his comment came the same evening as Ken Burns’ second episode of The Vietnam War series concluded with President John Kennedy acknowledging that the still-growing Indochina war was likely a lost cause. But how could he say that “and still expect people to vote for me?”

Republicans are in their own political quagmire having made easy-to-make campaign speeches and finding actually destroying the health care of Americans is a little harder. Now, they’ve got only 11 days left before they’d have to include Democrats in an overhaul of the system. Eleven days to jam an under-the-radar bill through the Senate before Americans, whose attention has been diverted to hurricanes, gets wind of the effort.

“It is hard to overstate the cruelty of the Graham-Cassidy bill,” the New York Times writes in its editorial today. “It would eliminate the mandate that even healthy people buy health insurance, end the subsidies that help people purchase coverage and stop the expansion of Medicaid.

It would offer states block grants they could use to help people get insurance but would leave people at the mercy of individual state legislatures and, over all, would provide $239 billion less than what the federal government would spend under current law between 2020 and 2026, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”

The two Republican women who courageously bucked their political leaders on a bill considered better than this one — Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — lean against this bill, too, but haven’t ruled out voting for it.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has once again been better at portraying himself as a maverick then actually being one (not that the nation’s political media has noticed, mind you), is once again a key, providing political cover for himself by saying he might vote for it if his state’s governor approves of the idea. He does.

“We’ve had nine months to get it done and we haven’t so is it my problem now that we only have a week? It’s not my problem,” McCain tells CNN.

Extensive hearings? Reasonable time for debate? A Congressional Budget Office assessment of the bill’s impact? No time for that. And, besides, something’s better than nothing.

Senators will have 90 seconds to two minutes to speak on the bill, one Democratic senator says.

“It’s a heck of a way to make a far reaching decision that will affect every American,” Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts writes today.

But how else can senators expect the American people to vote for them again?

  • Paul Weimer

    Mendacity, greed and a fear of the Tea Party base if they don’t get rid of that Kenyan Socialist’s health care plan may yet make the lives of millions of Americans demonstrably worse.

    Welcome to America.

  • Angry Jonny

    …and this is surprising?

  • MikeB

    This is a punitive action, actually going after people and their access to health insurance. And it is a byproduct of not being able to govern effectively when in charge. And, like the Kennedy/Vietnam parallel, they know it and will do so anyway.

  • John O.

    The Washington Post proudly(?) sports on its webpage, directly under the masthead “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” There’s a few lights still flickering here and there, but between our elected officials at the national and state level, mainstream media that is more often than not full of itself and an ignorant electorate, we’re toast.

    Case in point: the Post just sent me an alert that says (and I quote): ” ‘Growing up’ slower – Teens are not in a rush to date, drive or become adults, a new study finds.”

    • The issue wasn’t even mentioned on NPR’s Morning Edition today. Amazing how easy it is to get bored with a critical story.

      • Jerry

        The President is doing his part in keeping us distracted (and so, so embarrassed).

  • AL287

    This is where we say bipartisanship is a good idea since for the last 11 years, gridlock has been the name of the game.

    This “Hail Mary” move by a political party that is clearly in disarray and self-destructing should not surprise anyone. And of course the Alabama election could tell the tale so they have to do it before another possible maverick is elected to the Senate.

    Any elected Congressional official who thinks this is what is best for Americans can buy my waterfront property in Barbuda.

    Once again, the only thing that matters is maintaining control of Congress.

    We should all be saying our Hail Marys that more reasonable and merciful heads will prevail.

    • Rob

      If hopes were horses, we’d all be riding mounts called Kumbaya.

      • Jack

        That’s close to a proverb I heard while living in Kenya. “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

        Also guessing that a good percentage of Newscut regulars are watching the Vietnam series. Count me in that group.

        • Rob

          Ich, auch.

  • Mike

    The Democrats can quickly put this to their advantage by forcefully coming out and supporting Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare For All” bill that was recently introduced. Perhaps the party should ask every Congressional candidate to publicly support that bill, or else something similar that would advance us toward universal coverage.

    I’d bet that would be a successful strategy for 2018. What’s stopping them?

    • Sanders holding his news conference last week was a blunder. It gave the GOP the boogeyman it needed. Sanders is a sleeper cell in the party.

      • Mike

        It’s not Sanders who’s driven the party to a low of representation not seen since before the New Deal. That’s all on the current geniuses.

        • Then again, Sanders isn’t a Democrat.

          • Correct, though he’s allowed to caucus with them… or infiltrate, depending on your perspective, I suppose.

          • Yes…but most people seem to forget that part.

            /Caucused for him

        • I didn’t say anything about Sanders and the state of the democratic party. I said he gave the GOP ammunition on the health care bill that allowed a talking point for the revival of the effort to strip people of health care coverage.

          The state of the Democratic party, for the purposes of the current dynamic involving health care and the U.S. Senate, is pretty irrelevant, and an obvious distraction from the issue at hand.

          The Republican Party control most state legislatures, most statehouses, the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and the White House and still can’t get this bill through.

          Why? It turns out people like having access to health care.

          • Mike

            I don’t see how the abysmal electoral performance of the Democratic Party during Obama’s tenure is irrelevant to this debate. If they still had a majority in either house of Congress, the Republicans wouldn’t even be able to entertain thoughts of ACA repeal. The Democrats’ nationwide collapse is all too relevant.

            Sanders is the most popular politician in America. That’s something that perhaps the Democratic Party could learn from, except that it’s not really dedicated to progressive solutions, only pretending it is.

          • jon

            It doesn’t help that the GOP got 49% of the votes for the house of representatives (nationally), and managed to get 55% of the seats.

          • Mike

            Gerrymandering is not good, but it’s also not new. The Democrats practiced it with relish when they were more popular…. decades ago. Also, it doesn’t explain their loss of the Senate.

          • // I don’t see how the abysmal electoral performance of the Democratic Party during Obama’s tenure is irrelevant to this debate.

            Because it’s not part of the debate, is the primary reason.

            It’s a “what if” that doesn’t matter at the moment .

            This is a Republican issue right now with a party that’s in control in a one-party situation.

            The Democrats are irrelevant in this particular debate.

            It matters of the here and now, it doesn’t matter what could have been, what used to be, or what might be. The only thing that matters is what is.

          • Mike

            // The Democrats are irrelevant in this particular debate.

            Their input is irrelevant to the current Congressional debate because of their poor showing in multiple elections – their historic collapse in recent years. That fact is itself relevant to the larger public debate.

          • // ebate because of their poor showing in multiple elections – their historic collapse in recent years. That fact is itself relevant to the larger public debate.

            There is no larger public debate. What is is…. The U.S. is a one-party government and all the “why is that?” has nothing to do now with the discussion of the next 11 days of debate on a fifth of the U.S. economy.

            This is Republicans v. Republicans

          • Mike

            // There is no larger public debate.

            To the contrary, the public debate about national healthcare has been going on since the Truman administration. An understanding of the broader dynamics, and the history of how we got from there to here is generally relevant in the discussion of complex human problems.

            Denying the impact of the spectacular, multi-year failure of the Democratic Party may make certain people feel better, but it doesn’t help anyone’s understanding of the healthcare issue. It only enfeebles it.

          • That’s not a debate, that’s a fact. It’s undeniable that the Democrats have lost control of most of the country’s government.

            And that has obviously brought us to this moment. But from this moment to September 30, it has zero to do with what happens now.

            The Democrats are on the sidelines. The Republicans are up.

            You don’t have to know any history to watch and understand the next 11 days. You just have to be able to count to 50.

            There are many reasons we’re now at this point. But whether one wants to understand why we’re at this point doesn’t change a thing about the reality that here we are.

            Again, to bring it back to Vietnam. The blunders of Truman and Eisenhower didn’t make Jack Kennedy make a bad decision. They only put him into the position of having to make a decision at all. But he owned his own mistake, though he was dead 18 days after he made it.

      • Jeff

        I’m not so sure, by branding it “Medicare for All” it makes it hard to disparage a popular and generally well-regarded program.

  • Rob

    I love American Exceptionalism so much that it makes me teary-eyed.
    As a maverick, McCain has always been all hat and no cattle, and the fact that he’s likely to vote for this latest No Healthcare For You clusterf&!k because “his governor wants it” is the epitome of herd instinct.

    • AL287

      We know McCain is nearing the end of his life. With a brain tumor on his frontal lobe areas, he will become less and less reliable. Perhaps he wants to go out with his conscience clear.

      Since he won’t be here for the fall out, I don’t lend him too much credence.

    • wjc

      I know you were being sarcastic, but good god how I despise the words “American Exceptionalism”!

      • Rob

        Me too. If only the wrong-headed folks who use the term in earnest would suddenly see how hallucinatory it is. Ain’t holding my breath.

        • Jeff

          The folly of American Exceptionalism really was driven home in last night’s episode of Vietnam. It seems to have been the basis for the majority of the bad decisions. Oh yeah, and it eerily sounded a lot like what guided us in Iraq and Afghanistan too. Go team go!

          • Deja Vu all over again…

          • Joseph

            That was Episode 1 of the Vietnam War you’re thinking of 😉

          • MikeB

            We keep using the same flawed decision making process.

            Because….there are short term political incentives to start/continue military adventures, even knowing they will not achieve stated objectives. Political advantage > nation’s best interests.

      • Jeff

        I like “all hat and no cattle”, though. I’m going to use that.

  • Chris

    I do hope each republican senator voting for this will agree not to complain when President Gillibrand rams through medicare for all on 50 votes in 2021 with no hearings and no CBO score.

  • Postal Customer

    They don’t care about people. Can the media get to that?

  • AmiSchwab

    bob, can you explain to me why the gop is is so hellbent on taking away peoples health care? and then expecting to get elected again.

    • Because saying they would is how they won an election and Democrats were too scared of being tagged with “Obamacare” that they barely put up a fight to defend the notion that while only 50% of people vote, 100% of people have bodies that fail on occasion and , ultimately, forever.

      Because the media covers elections in pithy little sound bites and blanches at the notion of a deep dive into an issue and, as a result, it never occurs to people that they benefit from health care, they benefit from Medicare. They get swept up in the emotion of the herd menality, cast their vote and then later are shocked — shocked — to find out that the birth of their kid will no longer be covered, or that they can’t get pap smear anymore without paying for it.

      “Wait a minute!” they say. “I didn’t mean get rid of MY health care! I didn’t think it would affect the insurance I get through work!”

      People have chosen to live uninformed lives and Republicans, in particular, are REALLY good at understanding that and winning elections.

      Obamacare never had a technical bill passed. Early on it was established that riding the anti-Obamacare horse was the way to win elections.

      And at the end of the day, winning elections is the name of the game.

      To bring it back to the original comparison, watch the old parades when people march off to war. It’s a great celebration. It’s not the same as a battlefield.

      • Rob

        I LOVE your pithy observation that //people have chosen to live uninformed lives, and Republicans, in particular, are REALLY good at understanding that (and exploiting it) to win elections.

      • Tyler

        Births aren’t covered anyway. My Fortune 100 employer “gives” us a high-deductible plan with an HSA. In addition to $400/month premiums, we’ll be at least $8k out of pocket after the birth of our second kid.

        I made the mistake of requesting an itemized bill.
        1 ibuprofen = $22.
        1 prenatal vitamin =$24.
        1 bag of saline $50.

        I’m so furious and confused that I’m just paying the bill. I don’t have the time or knowledge to call and “negotiate” better prices. What a load.

        • The good news is you at least you get a kid out of the deal.

          Just read that breast cancer treatment will cost another $142,000 out of this deal. And, of course, preventive may not be covered so there’ll be more of that.

          But, hey, votes!

        • Jack

          Try having a cardiac arrest. That’s even more expensive but I’m glad to have health insurance. There was more than 75K that we DIDN’T have to pay.

      • AmiSchwab

        good answer but maybe my question shoild be have these people no morals?