Mitch McConnell spent the July 4 congressional recess committing malpractice as Senate majority leader. As Republican senators back home coped with hostile town-hall meetings and furious protests over GOP efforts to scrap Obamacare, McConnell hurled his entire conference beneath the bus by speculating that Obamacare repeal could fail.
“Unfortunately, this health-care issue has been a very divisive and partisan issue,” McConnell told the Paducah (Ky.) Rotary Club last Thursday. “If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to private health-insurance markets must occur.”
The last thing embattled GOP lawmakers needed was for Senator Debbie Downer (R., Ky.) to undermine their attempts to defend Obamacare repeal. McConnell’s defeatism is both a soporific for the Right and a stimulant for the Left.
The Trumpophobic media turned McConnell’s pessimism into a veritable death certificate for Obamacare repeal and replacement. Consider these headlines:
Politico — “McConnell: If we can’t repeal ObamaCare, we’ll fix it.”
The Hill — “McConnell signals doubts about ObamaCare vote.”
USA Today — “McConnell: If GOP health bill dies, bipartisan fix will be needed.”
Rather than undermine his troops — and make life even more difficult for free-market activists who fight Obamacare on op-ed pages, in TV talk-show studios, and at civic events nationwide — McConnell simply should have said (and still should say) that he and his majority will iron out their differences, welcome further ideas, and anticipate a vote soon.
This is not the first time that the naysaying McConnell torpedoed the entire Right by waving his white flag during a winnable battle.
In August 2015, Congress prepared to consider President Obama’s catastrophic Iran nuke “deal.” New Jersey’s Corey Booker, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, and other Democrats remained uncommitted, threatening Obama’s $150 billion bailout of the atomic ayatollahs.
In walked McConnell, wielding his instrument of surrender.
Obama “can win by getting one-third plus one of either house,” McConnell told Kentuckians, “So, he’s still got a great likelihood of success.”
These extremely unhelpful comments enervated opponents of Obama’s appeasement fiasco, strengthened its sense of inevitability, fortified wavering Democrats, and, ultimately, turned McConnell’s words into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Thanks 150 billion, Mitch!
As for nuking Obamacare, even if the Senate this week cannot muster 50 Yeas, plus Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote, the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body can act through the rest of July and, if necessary, all of August. Come next month, inaction would merit the cancellation of yet another congressional recess.
As President Trump declared this morning via Twitter: “I cannot imagine that Congress would dare to leave Washington without a beautiful new HealthCare bill fully approved and ready to go!”
If Republican senators crave the summer breeze, they should earn it. They can do so by massaging the Better Health Care Act and passing it as a single piece of legislation.
If Republican senators crave the summer breeze, they should earn it.
Alternatively, and perhaps more promisingly, the GOP Senate can vote to repeal Obamacare this week. Then it can replace Obamacare over the next seven weeks by assembling a substitute plan, piece by piece, through open amendments.
‐ Let Texas’s Ted Cruz and Utah’s Mike Lee present their Consumer Freedom amendment, freeing Obamacare-compliant insurers to sell lower-cost, stripped-down coverage for younger, healthier consumers.
‐ Let Kentucky’s Rand Paul offer his language to permit association health plans such as, say, KiwanisCare, AARPCare, or AAACare.
‐ Let Maine’s Susan Collins and Ohio’s Rob Portman introduce amendments to continue the Medicaid expansion.
‐ Let Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey submit language to allow Medicaid dollars to be deposited into tax-deferred Health Savings Accounts, for those who want them. Those funds could purchase insurance, drugs, medical devices, and even gym memberships.
‐ Let Marco Rubio propose the repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945. This would free Americans to buy health insurance across state lines or, better yet, within a 50-state national market. This would cost state insurance commissioners much of their power. How sad for them.
‐ Other senators could pitch measures to junk community rating, prohibit insurance bailouts, adopt medical-malpractice reform, and require members of Congress and their staffs to live under Obamacare now and, eventually, its replacement.
‐ And, by all means, let Democrats also fight for their ideas on the Senate floor — if they have any.
Some of these measures will fail, others will pass. Some Democrats may support some GOP proposals, and vice versa. The winning amendments will compose the final bill.
Senators who sponsored failing amendments can satisfy themselves and their constituents that they brought their concerns to the Senate for debates and up-or-down votes. Fighting for and losing votes on amendments should be more palatable than being force-fed a single, secretly crafted measure. A transparent and inclusive process should ease final passage of Obamacare repeal.
Senators could vote on amendments and full bills between now and Labor Day. Some legislation might be too liberal-to-moderate to pass. Some might be too conservative-to-libertarian to prevail. Senators should keep voting until they adopt a Goldilocks bill that is just right.
Whatever it takes, McConnell and the GOP Senate must repeal and replace Obamacare. If he and his caucus give up on this fundamental promise, they will not receive bouquets of roses from Democrats and their shock troops in the Old Guard media. Instead, the Left correctly will see Republicans as milquetoast pushovers and then hammer them more mercilessly than ever.
If GOP senators cannot make themselves feared, they surely will not make themselves loved. So — just as August follows July — Republicans should accept the Left’s incoming fire as axiomatic and then just do the right thing.
If not, Republicans and independent voters will feel more abandoned than ever. They will unleash their disgust at the polls, or simply stay home, even as energized Democrats flood every precinct. GOP senators and House members (despite the latter’s passage of Ryancare) should brace for major defeats in November 2018, including the loss of either or both houses of Congress.
If that happens, bye, bye, filibuster-proof GOP Senate (which, if Republicans would behave like a majority, remains within reach). Farewell, free-market reforms. Adios, constitutionalist judges.
Mitch McConnell and other Republicans are on the verge of spectacular victories for limited government. They should grow up and act accordingly. As Margaret Thatcher once said: “This is no time to go wobbly.”
— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor at National Review Online.