The Failure of Graham-Cassidy – RIP

Alan Zendell, September 23, 2017

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said a couple of days ago that he could give us ten good reasons to vote against this bill. Coming from Grassley that’s significant, because he has been a consistently conservative hawk on the federal health budget for decades. More significant, however, was his conclusion: he’d support Graham-Cassidy anyway because his party was politically committed to getting rid of Obamacare.

The more I hear that the more it makes my head ache. Politics is supposed to be a process for resolving differences through open debate, not an excuse to ignore the will of the people. Ever since the Republicans’ first attempt to ram through their partisan repeal and replace efforts, the polls have consistently shown that when most Americans look at the alternatives, they would rather have Congress fix the ACA and find a way to lower premiums than go back to a world of restrictive preconditions and dozens of other insurance industry horrors. And they have stated their preference by a clear majority.

Congress’ low approval rating is largely based on its inability to reach a bipartisan consensus on anything but pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey. Americans want major legislation to represent the best compromise of opposing points of view. That’s how representative government was meant to function. And that’s more than just a pie in the sky ideal. As many Senators, including both Arizona Republicans, Flake and McCain have repeatedly stated, major legislation rammed through by one party is unsustainable. It’s subject to the same kind of craziness we’ve seen with the ACA. With each change of majority party a partisan Congress will try to undo what its predecessor did.

To be fair, the ACA was passed in similar fashion by the Democrats, but to be even fairer, that was largely because then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to block everything Obama tried to accomplish from the day he took office. Is that really what everyone who voted against Obama in 2008 intended? Isn’t it time to stop all this and get on with doing the peoples’ business?

The likely collapse of Graham-Cassidy will undoubtedly be followed by a bi-partisan attempt to craft an improved law, whether it’s called Obamacare-2 or Trumpcare. That will happen partly because Trump will happily trash his own party for another “failure” and eagerly sign on for a bi-partisan debate. Our ideologically impaired president really couldn’t care less what the ultimate bill looks like as long as he can take credit for a victory.

So let’s once again thank John McCain for sticking to his philosophical guns. McCain knows this is probably his last hurrah in Congress, and he’s establishing his legacy. He is insisting that the United States Senate function as it was meant to. He simply won’t support a bad law that circumvents the normal rules of the Senate to avoid bi-partisan debate. And this time, he skipped the last-minute theatrics and came out with his No vote ahead of time to provide cover for other senators who know Graham-Cassidy is a bad idea.

And the other two physicians who are Republican Senators? John Barasso of Wyoming supports the bill without public comment. I find it hard to accept that a physician would vote strictly along political lines on something that affects the health care of a large percentage of Americans. Rand Paul of Kentucky is very clear about his opposition to the bill, but his opposition in on strictly libertarian grounds, also not addressing the nation’s health care problems. What’s wrong with this picture?

In any case, Paul is not someone to be bullied by Trump, McConnell or anyone else, so I’m glad of his No vote, even if I’m puzzled by his reasons. With two clear No’s on record Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski can seal the fate of this bad idea. My guess it that it will never come to a vote. There’s nothing Mitch McConnell likes less that public humiliation.

I look forward to seeing what Patty Murray (D-Wash) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) can accomplish in getting the Senate to function the way it’s supposed when they’re given a chance. But mostly, I look forward to being able to believe that our government really cares about the health the people it represents.

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