Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced on Monday the Senate’s plan to pass a repeal-and-replace bill for the Affordable Care Act has failed, spurred in large part by conservative Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). McConnell isn’t giving up, however; the new plan is to push for a repeal of ObamaCare now, buying Congress two years to implement a new replacement model.
While many Republican-leaning pundits are rightly concerned such a strategy is politically hazardous—because it gives liberals in Congress the ability to frame Republicans as unnecessarily risking the welfare of millions of people who depend on the current system—perception isn’t always reality, especially in the modern political climate. For once, so-called “conservatives” in Congress should act “conservatively,” by passing a full repeal (or as close as they can get) of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and instituting a replacement plan later.
Cautious congressmen, especially in the Senate, might find such a strategy unappealing, and while that’s understandable, they should be reminded that they were elected on a platform that promised the repeal of Obamacare, not a watered-down, Band-Aid-covered, half-hearted attempt at reforming it. If conservatives can’t rally around getting rid of ObamaCare, it’s time we rethink what “conservative” means and re-think the people who identify as such but fail to live out their principles.
Political necessity does on occasion necessitate passing far-less-than-ideal legislation, and a reasonable argument could be made what the Republicans devised in their most recent Better Care Reconciliation Act would have been better than leaving ObamaCare in place. It’s entirely possible allowing the ACA “death spiral” to continue could eventually end up with a single-payer push from Democrats, which, if successful, would be disastrous to the cause of liberty.
But even more reasonable than compromising beliefs in the fear of losing cushy Senate seats is keeping campaign promises and living (which means voting, too) with honor. I realize that asking politicians to tell the truth in Washington, D.C., is a hopeless endeavor, but now that a few good senators have stood firm against the Senate leadership’s plan, what excuse is there left for moderates?
Should ObamaCare continue on the path it’s on now, Republicans will look utterly incompetent. The one thing that has consistently been promised by virtually every Republican at every level for the past seven years has been an end to ObamaCare. Why would anyone trust “conservatives” again if they can’t accomplish this one task?
Should ObamaCare remain in place, millions of Americans will continue to be caught in the Medicaid gap, millions will continue to be forced from their health insurance (and possibly their doctors), and millions will be stuck having to choose from an ever-shrinking list of insurers willing to lose a fortune to operate in ObamaCare exchanges. People will be hurt by inaction.
Should ObamaCare continue, premiums and deductibles will continue to skyrocket, pricing many younger, healthy people out of the market, continuing the collapse of the entire exchange system. And millions of people will continue to be forced to pay taxes, fees, and fines associated with this unjust boondoggle.
No one is suggesting all Congress should do is repeal ObamaCare. Instituting much-needed, long-called-for health care reforms—such as enhancing direct primary care, supporting health insurance alternatives, reforming Medicaid, expanding health savings accounts, freeing the health insurance market from costly mandates, allowing the creation of association health plans, and enacting reforms to lower the cost of prescription drugs—is vital to the future of the U.S. health care system. But there are simply no valid reasons to keep a collapsing system in place that aren’t based entirely on protecting the political aspirations of a few hundred people.
No more excuses, members of Congress. Repeal ObamaCare, or find new jobs.
Justin Haskins (@JustinTHaskins) is executive editor and a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.