(Bloomberg View) — Are congressional Republicans about to walk into a trap of their own making? With a vote coming (perhaps) next week, the strategy they’ve followed all year is about to drop them unceremoniously on a path to being stuck with an unpopular law few of them appear to even want in the first place.
The big story in health care has appeared to be straightforward: Virtually every Republican member of Congress on both sides of the Hill ran on “repealing and replacing Obamacare,” but virtually all them them filled in at least some policy blanks themselves, lacking a party-endorsed plan to guide them. Once in control of the White House and Congress, there was no way to reconcile their various commitments on the campaign trail and other differences into a single “replace” bill.
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Consequently, the actions they’ve taken since then, at least as I see it, have been designed by various groups and individuals as efforts to duck the blame for not following through on their many health care promises. The result is they wound up passing something in the House that almost no one liked — including those who voted for it.
And now Senate Republicans may be about to do the same thing. They have entirely avoided the committee process, and have even so far left the contents of the bill a secret. (Some secrecy in working out compromises is normal and, I’ll argue, healthy. But what Republicans are doing this time is, as Congress scholar Sarah Binder explains, far from normal). And behind the secrecy appears to be close to utter indifference to how the bill would actually work if it became law.
Granted, the very secrecy they are working under makes it difficult to know much for sure. But it seems to me that there’s something unusually unmoored about this process. In 2009, Democrats strongly believed (in large part mistakenly) that voters would like the Affordable Care Act once it was fully implemented. If any Republicans believe that now about their American Health Care Act, they certainly aren’t saying so. Nor are they acting as if they believe it. Indeed, I suspect Mitch McConnell probably doesn’t much care what happens to health care as long as he can wrap up the bill one way or another and move on to taxes. When Vox interviewed several Republican senators, they were barely able to talk about what the bill is supposed to be about.