On Tuesday, just before the CBO released an incomplete analysis of Graham-Cassidy that found that the terrible bill would cost “millions” their health insurance and decrease Medicaid funding by $1 trillion, Senator Susan Collins came out against it, effectively killing the latest, last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare.
But as repugnant and seemingly improvised as this latest push was, the Republican dream of repealing Obamacare will never die. That’s not because Republicans have ideas about how the American health care system should work, but because political realities dictate that they repeal Obamacare. Donors are making (probably empty) threats to withhold funding in 2018 if congressional Republicans don’t do their bidding. Meanwhile, the failure of Republicans, who control Congress and the presidency, to pass any major legislation will surely spark a backlash from the party’s base. If human 10 Commandments display Roy Moore defeats incumbent Luther Strange in Tuesday’s Alabama primary, the threat of challengers from the right could push Republican officeholders to act.
On Tuesday, Axios reported on one possible path forward for Republicans: combining health care legislation and tax reform, and passing both using reconciliation for fiscal year 2018. “There’s no reason you couldn’t do health care and taxes at the same time,” Rand Paul, who opposes Graham-Cassidy, told reporters on Monday. Lindsey Graham and Ron Johnson also support the move.
The sheer awfulness of health care repeal—which has not been helped by the fact that Republicans have insisted on coupling repeal with massive tax cuts for the wealthy—has doomed every effort to pass legislation over the past year. Donald Trump is reportedly fired up to give tax breaks to the rich, but it’s not clear that Republicans have what it takes to pass a massive tax cut either. Republicans lack the political capital to get things done, partly because Trump is so unpopular and partly because the things they’ve tried to do have been so unpopular.
Republicans now think that if they combine two things that they haven’t been able to pass on their own, then success will follow. We’ve learned this year that Obamacare will never be safe as long as Republicans are in power—Graham-Cassidy will surely not be the last attempt to repeal it. But we can take some small comfort in the fact that Republicans are clearly running out of ideas about how to repeal Obamacare.