Last night, Senators Mike Lee and Jerry Moran announced their public opposition to Mitch McConnell’s repeal-and-replace bill, effectively sinking it. McConnell is now moving on to a repeal-without-replace bill (also known as repeal-and-delay), which is even more difficult to pass among moderate Republicans. Either McConnell is daring his conference to implode the health insurance market or is washing his hands of the whole debacle.
Health care is not truly dead yet. Obamacare will never be safe with Republicans in power, and the possibility of a repeal-only bill is terrifying. But the bill was on rotting stilts to begin with and much of this had to do with the fact that people like having health care. It has been said a thousand times before, but it’s hard to over-stress that Republicans control majorities in both chambers of Congress as well as the presidency and they still are failing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Some of this can be attributed to Trump’s near-total disengagement from the process, but most of it boils down to the time-honored truth that, once they are in place, benefits are really difficult to take away.
A recent poll by The Washington Post found that Americans prefer Obamacare—the law that the GOP has labeled as evil government overreach for the last seven years—over Trumpcare by a 2-to-1 margin. For the last month, Republican senators have faced protesters condemning the bill in town halls (if lawmakers dare to have them), at July 4 parades, and in their own offices. Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine who has opposed the bill, told The New York Times that she had been inundated with testimonials from people who had benefited from Obamacare. Republican governors, many of whom preside over states that expanded Medicaid, have cited concerns about what Trumpcare’s Medicaid cuts would do to their constituents.
It’s hard to measure the influence of the protests, but they certainly had a hand in making the Republicans’ repeal-and-replace effort politically toxic. Obamacare, for all of its flaws, has saved and improved people’s lives, newly insuring millions of people. Lee and Moran might have dealt the final blow to Republicans’ latest effort, but it is Obamacare that has been tripping up repeal-and-replace from the very beginning.