House GOP moves to defund ObamaCare, introduces replacement proposal
House Republican leadership has, to the surprise of some observers, embraced a plan to de-fund ObamaCare by sending the Senate a budget that funds everything else. This would put Senate Democrats, and President Obama, in the position of demanding a government shutdown to protect the unpopular health-care law.
Until now, House Speaker John Boehner had favored funding the federal government with one bill, and defunding ObamaCare with another. This would have made it rather easy for Senate Democrats to keep the bill they liked, and scuttle the one they hated. A tougher game will now be played at the insistence of House conservatives, including Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia, who had already introduced a resolution to feed a healthy low-carb sequestered diet to Uncle Sam, while starving the nasty Affordable Care Act fever he’s been running for the past few years. Graves released a statement of support for the leadership this afternoon:
“I encourage every House Republican to support this bill because it achieves the two goals that unite us all: keeping the government open and protecting our constituents from the harmful effects of Obamacare. With the Defund Obamacare Act now inserted into the bill, we are making a genuine attempt to stop the law before it starts on October 1.
“I thank the 79 cosponsors of the Stability, Security and Fairness Resolution, and the 148 cosponsors of the Defund Obamacare Act, for raising their voices at critical times this year. I credit House leadership for listening to us and responding to the demands of the American people.
“Now it’s up to Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats to explain why Obamacare is too dangerous for businesses, but still being enforced on families. They must explain why special interests get waivers and companies get delays, but the average American is still hit by Obamacare’s trainwreck of fines, mandates and confusion.”
It will be rather interesting to hear them explain that, won’t it? It’s about time they were compelled to do so. Of course, the Democrats will still try to paint Republicans as the shutdown villains, but a president as unpopular as Obama has become might have trouble doing that, especially since he keeps rewriting his “signature legislative achievement” to grant special waivers and exemptions. The public may also not be in a mood to hear sermons about the wonders of ObamaCare from congressional Democrats who insisted on special illegal subsidies to lighten its burden upon their staffs.
At the end of the day, with all other personality conflicts and political maneuvers aside, a lot of voters are going to wonder why some parts of ObamaCare have to be implemented in a blind rush, while others have to wait for a year or longer. Victory is hardly assured, but that’s not bad ground for the Republicans to fight from.
Another common argument from ObamaCare defenders – the assertion that critics of the President’s plan have no alternatives to offer – has been addressed by a proposal from the Republican Study Committee entitled “The American Health Care Reform Act.” Given that about 75 percent of House Republicans belong to this committee, this plan should have some weight as an official GOP reform agenda. After ObamaCare has been done away with, the RSC offers these bullet points for their alternative:
** Spurs competition to lower health care costs by allowing Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines and enabling small businesses to pool together and get the same buying power as large corporations.
** Reforms medical malpractice laws in a commonsense way that limits trial lawyer fees and non-economic damages while maintaining strong protections for patients.
** Provides tax reform that allows families and individuals to deduct health care costs, just like companies, leveling the playing field and providing all Americans with a standard deduction for health insurance.
** Expands access to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), increasing the amount of pre-tax dollars individuals can deposit into portable savings accounts to be used for health care expenses.
** Safeguards individuals with pre-existing conditions from being discriminated against purchasing health insurance by bolstering state-based high risk pools and extending HIPAA guaranteed availability protections.
** Protects the unborn by ensuring no federal funding of abortions.
The Hill quotes RSC chairman Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) discussing the new proposal, slipping a bit of (probably accurate) editorial speculation about how Democrats will attack the plan right into the middle of Scalise’s remarks:
Scalise said the bill contains no overlap with ObamaCare.
“This is 180 degrees different,” Scalise said.
But the bill could set Republicans up for political attacks by scrapping popular provisions in ObamaCare like a prohibition on denying health insurance to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
“We work with the existing state high-risk pools that are out there,” Scalise said in regards to people with pre-existing conditions. The bill provides $25 billion over 10 years to enhance the state pools, “so an individual with pre-existing conditions can go and buy at market rates.”
“We put our money where our mouth is,” Scalise said.
Scalise tapped a member of the House Doctors Caucus, Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), to lead a working group that met once or twice a week over the last several months to draft the proposal.
Roe said Scalise came to him a few months ago with a set of marching orders. “He said you can’t have any mandates in this bill. You can’t raise taxes. You’ve got to reform the tax code, but there can’t be any subsidies involved,” Roe recalled. “That’s pretty limited in what we can do. I think within those parameters, we came up with a pretty good bill.”
Popular discontent with ObamaCare, a solid replacement proposal, a President who was just made to look ridiculous by the Russians, five years of economic malaise and workforce collapse… there have been worse political environments.
Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor made a point of supporting President Obama’s quest for military strikes on Syria because they thought it would earn them some reciprocal goodwill. Then they got to watch Obama take the stage, just hours after a shooting rampage at the Washington Naval Yard, and launch slash-and-burn partisan attacks against them. Perhaps that influenced their decision to go all-in on ObamaCare repeal. Maybe they got tired of trying to shake hands with someone who keeps hitting them below the belt.