The Corner

Politics & Policy

You Can’t Save a Party From Itself.

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

They Fear Responsibility for Change More Than They Fear the Status Quo

You can’t save a party from itself.

I like Ohio Senator Rob Portman quite a bit. But there’s no getting around the fact that his campaign web site in 2016 said this…

Senator Rob Portman believes that Obamacare must be repealed and replaced with reforms that will actually lower costs and improve the quality of our health care. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the health care law the Democrats shoved through Congress in 2009 will slow economic growth over the next decade, cost 2.5 million jobs, and contribute a trillion dollars to the deficit.

There are alternatives to Obamacare that would actually reduce the costs in health care. Senator Rob Portman believes that we should allow companies to sell insurance across state lines, pass tort reform to reduce the extra costs due to frivolous lawsuits, and allow smaller businesses to band together and get the same tax benefits that larger businesses have when providing health care to their employees.

Other proposals include establishing well-funded high risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions and providing tax credits for people to purchase insurance on the individual market.

Together, we can repeal Obamacare and replace it with common-sense reforms to lower costs and improve our health care system.

The Senate version of the Obamacare replacement bill was far from perfect, but it was a giant step in the direction that Portman claimed that he wanted back in 2016. There wasn’t much wiggle room in his rhetoric on the trail; Obamacare “must be repealed and replaced.” Now the senator prefers the status quo to the GOP alternative.

Back in 2015, when Obama was president and sure to veto it, Portman voted for a repeal-only proposal. His tune this week:

 “If it is a bill that simply repeals (Obamacare), I believe that will add to more uncertainty and the potential for Ohioans to pay even higher premiums, higher deductibles,” the Ohio Republican told MSNBC on Tuesday.

“The circumstances have changed altogether for Ohio,” Portman said. “We’ve gone from a situation in Ohio where had a lot of competition (and) multiple insurance companies” offering plans to a situation where 19 counties in the state have no insurer offering coverage on the individual market for the next enrollment period.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski also voted to repeal in 2015, and she, too, says repeal-only is now unacceptable.

So yes, blame the senators for changing their tune as soon as there was a Republican president who might actually sign their ideas into law. But don’t let the president off the hook; his interest in using the bully pulpit to get this bill passed was intermittent at best.

Imagine a world where Trump tweeted to his Alaskan supporters to call Murkowski’s office and urge her to support the bill. He won the state by 15 points. Imagine a world where Trump held a rally in West Virginia, telling all of his supporters who attend that they need to call Senator Capito. He won that state in a landslide.

Instead, he’s tweeting, “As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!”

Stay tuned? What is this, a cliffhanger for next week’s episode of The Apprentice?

Yesterday Ramesh wrote, “The proposition that the tweets are undermining congressional work does not really hold up.” I disagree slightly. They’re not the primary cause of the troubles of the Congressional GOP, but trump’s tweets are a reflection of his interests, and every tweet about Mika Brzezinski’s alleged facelift or who will replace Greta Van Susteren on MSNBC is one that isn’t being used to build public support for legislative priorities. One reason these Republican senators felt comfortable opposing the GOP reform bill is because there wasn’t much pressure from the public at large or the GOP grassroots. If Trump had said to his significant number of supporters in places like Ohio, Alaska, Maine, Nevada, Kentucky, West Virginia, Kansas, and Utah, “I need you to call your senators!” would any of those senators have at least felt a little more pressure to get on board?