Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse went on dimwit yapping show Fox & Friends Friday morning to offer a path forward for the Senate's stalled health care reform process: repeal first, replace later. “I want maximum repeal, however much repeal we can do under this arcane budget reconciliation rules,” he said. “And then I want to have a conversation about real replace.” He said he would be writing a letter to President Trump Friday morning “urging him to call on us to separate them.”
OK, guy: Cut it with the formalities. There’s no need for any letter, as you know. The president doesn’t read. You also know that he does watch Fox & Friends religiously, and that he’s inclined to treat the most recent idea he hears as the best idea. Pat yourself on the back. The early wake-up call was worth it:
If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2017
And shortly after Trump regurgitated what the last person he saw on television said, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul tweeted that he agreed:
I have spoken to @realDonaldTrump & Senate leadership about this and agree. Let's keep our word to repeal then work on replacing right away.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) June 30, 2017
The re-emergence of calls to repeal, delay, and then replace is amusing. If the current effort fails after six months of shredded political capital, the process will not restart with a more aggressively partisan approach. Moderates and mainstream members who already hate their lives will not be convinced to vote for a piece of repeal legislation that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would leave 32 million more uninsured and double premiums, consequences that the Republican Party would own. There are plenty of good reasons why, early on in the process, Republicans decided to do repeal and replace in the same package instead of just repealing.
“I think it’s imperative that Republicans do a replacement simultaneous with repeal,” as one senator put it in January. “If they don’t, there are many health care analysts predicting bankruptcy for insurance companies and a massive insurance company bailout within the first six months of repeal.” The senator added in an op-ed that “if Congress fails to vote on a replacement at the same time as repeal, the repealers risk assuming the blame for the continued unraveling of Obamacare.”
The author of those sage words was Rand Paul. Eventually Paul’s proposal to repeal and replace simultaneously picked up steam and won then-President-elect Trump over. Paul was quite pleased that the President agreed with him, about how repeal and replace should be done simultaneously:
I just spoke to @realDonaldTrump and he fully supports my plan to replace Obamacare the same day we repeal it. The time to act is now.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) January 7, 2017
When Republicans were thinking about repealing, delaying, and replacing, their logic was that Democrats would be forced to the table once Obamacare was gone and a “health care cliff” loomed before them. But Democrats were quite clear that if Republicans went ahead with repeal, they would get no help from Democrats later. Republicans would own the health care mess they created, and it would be theirs to fix. Republicans blinked and abandoned repeal and delay. They already suspected in January that they’d have a difficult time agreeing among themselves on any replacement legislation, so they’d better not pull the rug out first. The last few months have more than confirmed their fears about themselves. If the current effort fails, Republicans will not start from scratch with an even more ambitiously partisan plan. If anything, Republicans and Democrats will get together and spend some money to prop up insurers, and that will be that.