Media Buzz

Unhealthy outlook for repealing ObamaCare as some GOP senators defect from bill

Howard Kurtz

President Trump declared at his Iowa rally that if he came up with the greatest health care plan in history, “we would not get one Democrat vote.”

Well, he probably won’t get one Democratic vote for the version that Mitch McConnell unveiled yesterday. And McConnell is having trouble getting enough Republican votes.

The Senate majority leader made the case that the draft measure is better than ObamaCare, and that it preserves such elements as no ban on preexisting conditions while effectively getting rid of the individual mandate to buy coverage.

Chuck Schumer countered that the bill “may be meaner” than the House version—a reference to Trump privately telling senators he found the House bill “mean”—and he ripped the process that kept the draft secret until yesterday. The minority leader said “10 measly hours” of debate is not enough for such important legislation, and “that brings shame on this body.”

With four GOP senators saying they can’t support this version, McConnell is a couple of votes short and has his work cut out for him. “Looks like we’re keeping ObamaCare, not repealing it,” Rand Paul complained.

When it comes to the process, both parties are bathed in hypocrisy. Having criticized the way the Democrats rammed through the Obama health bill in 2010, the Republicans are now doing something similar, and unlike the Dems are not holding a single committee hearing. The Democrats, of course, are doing lots of obstructing and slow-walking, having ripped the GOP for doing just that during the Obama years.

The biggest single obstacle is that the bill would greatly reduce Obama’s Medicaid expansion, which the right sees as out of control but the left fears would leave millions without coverage. The conservative argument is that the costs are spiraling out of control and eventually have to be picked up by the states; the liberal argument is that the money is being shifted to tax cuts for the wealthy.

Equally contentious are the tax credits to help some people pay their premiums. The House bill pegs the credits to age, which could sock the elderly with huge increases, while the Senate bill adds income and geography—all for a skimpier menu of required services.

And if McConnell can push something through, we all get treated to the excitement of a House-Senate conference.

The outcome of this battle is vital for the health of millions of Americans. But it’s also crucial for the health of the Republican Party, which would have a hard time explaining why it couldn’t replace ObamaCare despite controlling everything in Washington.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.