Well, they did it. They sucked the air out of the room. They clipped the wings of the resistance. A few short weeks after our jubilance over the defeat of the ill-conceived TrumpRyan “care” AHCA, they came back and passed it. They sure showed us.
Wrong! This health bill is a complete joke. It has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, so we can’t even assess its actual costs to real people, but since it is basically a revival of the old AHCA, the original figure that 24 million would lose health coverage is probably a safe bet. Since this iteration was constructed to appease the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, the numbers are probably higher, notwithstanding the paltry $8 billion in relief for those with preexisting conditions that was thrown out to give cover for the moderates. The Senate is going to hate this bill, since as the grownups in Congress, and the last hurdle before this monstrosity becomes law, it will be on the hook for its deadly and ruinous effects. Sure, we will have to fight, and it will be close, but how can these legislators take a measure that is so mean-spirited in its cuts and so egregious in its giveaways to the wealthy seriously?
All of which brings us back to the House. The incessant mantra over the last seven years to repeal and replace, repeal and replace has left some of these feeble reps in an almost Pavlovian state of reaction. They would pull the lever for anything that was not Obamacare. However, the GOP is so divided now, that it hardly constitutes a group with a consistent ideology. Because flanking those slavering dogs (including most of our NC reps) to the left and to the right are two distinct and mutually incompatible camps. On the one hand, the Freedom Caucus is only content with a bill that rolls back any whiff of mandated coverage. They boldly and unapologetically claim that the free market and not the government is the best arbiter of health coverage. Underpinning their ideology is an idea that is pure social Darwinism: health care is a privilege, not a right. I will let the reader judge the level of callousness it takes to consider, for example, the fact that children in poverty who already have worse care, would now have an even harder time receiving basic services through no fault of their own but pure circumstance.
Bookending the Freedom Caucus on the left of the GOP are the moderates, motivated partially by compassion, but also by the very real specter of looming elections. Nothing drives politicians to the center like close elections! This is the group from which the scant opposition to Thursday’s vote came, and in fact one fewer of these Congresspeople voted for it this time than last. However, 33 of them did, and shame on them for going along with this, but one can only imagine the pressure they felt from Paul Ryan, not to mention Trump’s henchmen. The rapidity with which this bill was trotted out and passed made a mockery of the committee process as well, and even though it barely squeaked through, many GOP chairpeople are miffed, and that will make it harder to pass tax reform and other mischief. These moderates are more likely to adhere to norms and procedures than their flame-throwing, Tea Party cousins.
Live by the sword, die by the sword. The fact of the matter is, the GOP has never had a credible alternative to the ACA. If it did, Ryan never would have trotted out this farcical bill. The party so staked its claim to opposition that it completely forgot how to govern. One would think that after seven years of screaming “death panels!” that we would have had by now detailed alternative plans to consider. But no. And let’s not forget that the ACA was a compromise in the first place, and contained a not insignificant portion of Republican ideas in the first place. Remember RomneyCare, anyone?
Yes, Thursday was a bitter pill to swallow. Yet, all I see all over Facebook and Twitter is a galvanizing rage that spells real trouble for House GOP members who voted yes. While we can only hope that this insane bill never becomes law, that vote is indelibly etched into the public record. In this state, let it be known that all of our reps who attached their names to that accursed would-be statute will have hell to pay in their districts, first in the recess that begins now, and all the way through to November, 2018. If they thought the call for town halls was bad before, they have seen nothing yet. Expect an onslaught of die-ins, marches, and protests like you have never seen before. Here are their names, districts, and phone numbers. Welcome home, lady and gentlemen.
NC-2 George Holding 202-225-3032
NC-5 Virginia Foxx (202) 225 2071
NC-6 Mark Walker (202) 225-3065
NC-7 David Rouzer (202) 225-2731
NC-8 RIchard Hudson (202) 225-3715
NC-9 Robert Pittenger (202) 225-1976
NC-10 Patrick McHenry (202) 225-2576
NC-11 Mark Meadows (202) 225-6401
NC-13 Ted Budd (202) 225-4531