SENATE

House ObamaCare replace bill: Too 'sweetened' for Senate's taste?

Chad Pergram

No one had seen a unicorn Frappuccino until Starbucks introduced one a few weeks ago.

This was a frothing phosphate. A bedazzled, purple and pink drink -- available for a limited time only.

And now it’s gone.

Blend such a Frappuccino with the mythical unicorn and you really have something plucked out of the ether.

Some might say it’s like the House Republican ObamaCare repeal and replace bill.

Republicans talked about such a legislative potion for years. But alas, such a bill -- which could pass -- was elusive as the unicorn.

Until Republicans finally had it.

There were the tenets of the initial plan, crafted last year by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., during his “Year of Ideas” and incorporated in his “A Better Way” agenda. But without major revisions, the House proved it couldn’t adopt that prospectus.

The GOP seemed to court the votes of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, securing a last-minute agreement with Rep. Mark Meadows, R -N.C., about what constitutes “essential health benefits” covered in an insurance plan. But that didn’t close the deal, and the GOP snatched the measure off the floor back in March.

In April, there was the addendum on health care risk pools crafted by GOP Reps. Dave Schweikert, Ariz., and Gary Palmer, R-Ala. But that didn’t wrap things up, either. A little later, Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J.,  teamed with Meadows on another amendment. It still didn’t bring things across the finish line. Finally, Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Billy Long, R-Mo., cooked up additional money for risk pools to help cover the sick and poor. And finally, Republicans guided the beleaguered health care plan to passage.

Much like the unicorn Frappuccino at Starbucks, the GOP just kept stirring-in cloying sweeteners to appeal to House Republicans to vote for the bill.

This isn’t a new tactic on Capitol Hill. Congressional leaders have long poured these sweeteners onto legislation to induce just the right number of members to vote yes to pass a bill. But all of the sugars and calories mixed into the health care measure almost reached a level of absurdity. They just kept adding things, coming up with a strange legislative concoction.

Black, high-octane, caffeinated coffee served in a Styrofoam cup wasn’t good enough. We’re long past the era of Chock full O’Nuts and Folgers Crystals. These days, people want their coffee with a shot of vanilla or caramel.

Americanos. Café Cubanos. Lattes and mochas and cappuccinos. Still, even cappuccinos weren’t good enough. So they whipped up Frappuccinos. And if regular Frappuccinos became passé, they delved into the novel -- birthing the unicorn Frappuccino.

The Saccharine concoction is seemingly infused with Lucky Charms, Trix and Froot Loops, sprinkled with pixie dust and served by Glenda the Good Witch, best enjoyed while watching “My Little Pony.”

Mix the drink and its color and taste starts to change. That’s kind of how the GOP health care bill appears. Just kind of thrown together and added on until they got something which could pass. It doesn’t matter what it was. Just something that could pass, no matter the bizarre outcome.

They’d never been able to pass anything before until now.

But like the unicorn Frappuccino at Starbucks, the House GOP health care plan won’t be around long, either.

A baker’s dozen of senators are already empaneled as part of a task force to draft their own health care bill.

Sure, senators may crib various provisions from the House measure, which finally made it past the House into the Senate package. And who knows if the Senate can ever cobble something together. But it won’t be the unicorn Frappuccino of health care.

Like the unicorn Frappuccino, the American Health Care Act, the GOP’s replacement for ObamaCare, is just a limited release until the Senate manages to assemble something which is reasonably palatable.

Who knows if the House can grapple with a Senate bill -- if and when senators muscle through their own plan?

It’s entirely possible that the Senate may engineer a different contraption of a health care bill. The Senate bill could be something which resembles a warren of plastic tubes and tunnels -- worthy of a hamster habitat in the bedroom of a nine-year-old. But it won’t be much like what they dreamt up in the House.

You can’t blame congressional Republicans for going to these lengths to pass an ObamaCare repeal and replace package. And for the record, it should be noted that this plan doesn’t actually repeal ObamaCare. It merely revises parts of the law. Republicans were desperate. They argued about ObamaCare for nearly eight years.

Some House Republicans felt like they were trapped on a Caribbean island attending the Fyre Festival as they served in the majority during the Obama presidency. Then all of a sudden the GOP scores control of the Senate, President Trump goes to the White House and Republicans see their chance to undo all that they perceived was wrong over the past eight years.

Thus they produced the Unicorn Frappuccino.

Sometimes that’s all you can do on Capitol Hill. Rarely is a bill or the vaunted “process” on a major bill good or pretty. They’re always dressing things up on legislation. That’s why it’s important not to level too much criticism at Republicans, regardless of the parliamentary outcome. Democrats faced the same issues. And if you think health care was ugly, imagine the various drinks coming later this year.

Tax Reform Tea. Debt Ceiling Delight. Shutdown Shakes.

Expect dwarves and elves and orcs and hobbits. It could be something right out of Lord of the Rings.

Like it or not, Republicans got a bill together and dragged it to passage on the House floor. Many thought that couldn’t be done. If past is prologue, don’t be so sure Republicans won’t be able to advance health care or an infrastructure bill.

The question centers on just how sweet they can make the bill to command the requisite votes to usher it to passage.

The process isn’t elegant. So dress it up as best you can. Pour in the rainbow food coloring, edible dye and chlorophyll. Make it appealing. Add sweeteners.

Voila. Maybe you can get a Unicorn Frappuccino health care bill. But for a limited time only. Pricing and participation may vary.