06.08.2017 0

The Senate needs to get back to work on Obamacare

By Natalia Castro

The repeal and replace of Obamacare was a pillar of the Republican campaign in 2016, and both President Donald Trump and the House of Representatives have kept this promise alive.

With the American Health Care Act (AHCA), House Republicans compromised amongst themselves to deliver healthcare reform to solve the disaster that was Obamacare, but now the Senate is compiling their own bill to readdress these issues. Now it is time the Senate stop stalling and do what the American people have been asking for years- repeal and replace Obamacare.

In early May, Republicans in the House passed the AHCA on a 217-213 vote, with every Democrats opposing. But that does not mean that this bill was a perfectly crafted piece of legislation, in reality a version of the bill was pulled in March because it lacked support from conservatives; sparking discussions between the conservative Freedom Caucus and moderate Tuesday Group.

The result was a bill that helped both factions in the House Republican Conference; while it kept in place some protections regarding preexisting conditions and community rating rules, it allowed states to receive wavers to opt out of Obamacare’s overall regulatory scheme.

Yet now, a month later, the Senate is unable to move forward, or even have a productive discussion on healthcare.

Despite hoping to have a draft of their own healthcare bill this week, a GOP Lunch on Tuesday left many in Republican leadership feeling skeptical. While some Senators are still pushing for progress in the next week, others don’t believe healthcare reform will be possible this year at all.

The Hill reported that while Texas Senator John Cornyn believes a vote will be possible in July, before Congress’s August break, North Carolina’s Senator Richard Burr said it would be unlikely that the Senate reach a deal on Obamacare replacement this year at all.

Senator Lindsey Graham seemed the most pessimistic, when discussing a vote the South Carolina Senator told Bloomberg, “I don’t think there will be. I just don’t think we can put it together among ourselves.”

Imagine your boss gave you an assignment that required working together with coworkers. Imagine you told your boss “I just don’t think we can put it together among ourselves.” The American people are the Senate’s boss, and we cannot accept this blatant denial of a promise they made when the American people elected these Senators into office, and that is to repeal and replace Obamacare.

What is even stranger here is that the Senate is gridlocked on the exact same issues the House was, but they are not taking into consideration the House’s solutions.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia has said she will not commit to a bill that phases out the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, meanwhile, Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Susan Collins of Maine are debating a plan that would allow states to opt into a more conservative framework.

The issues the Senate is gridlocked over have already been debated in the House.

While the Senate argues these same points, the House bill already stands up as an alternative.

The House bill does provide a phase out for Medicaid over the next several years but to compensate, provides tax credits to low income families. The House bill also already has an opt out for conservative states via the MacArthur Amendment added by conservatives in the last days of debate as a compromise created exactly this, while still assisting those with preexisting conditions through the mandated creation of an invisible risk sharing program.

The Republican Senate campaigned against Obamacare and every single Republican voted to a partial repeal of the legislation entirely in 2015; legislation that was passed in both the House and the Senate, and sent to President Obama just to be vetoed. Clearly agreement is possible, now with a majority in the House, Senate and Executive there is no reason to continue acting as if legislation cannot get passed.

In fact, when the House was seemingly gridlocked on Obamacare repeal in March, Senator Mike Lee released a statement that would be wise for his colleagues in the Senate to listen to now. Lee explains, “We promised the American people we would drain the swamp and end business as usual in Washington…This is exactly the type of back-room dealing and rushed process that we criticized Democrats for and it is not what we promised the American people…Let’s pass the 2015 repeal bill that Republicans in both houses of Congress voted for and sent to the White House just 15 months ago.”

Now, not only can the Senate not agree on legislation they already passed, but they cannot even lead a discussion on the House amendments.

President Trump has pushed for Obamacare repeal consistently and the House produced legislation to materialize this goal. It’s not perfect, but they got it done. Now the Senate needs to do its job. Waiting a month to pass the American Health Care Act is too long, this is not a matter of time but a matter of will.

If the Senate is not willing to repeal and replace Obamacare, they are failing to do what the American people ultimately voted them into office to do — and the American people need to start asking why.

Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.

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