I have no choice, in the face of even more egregious Trump executive orders, to keep my focus on Congress. Not because I’m not outraged – as the grandson of a refugee from the Armenian Genocide and as an empathetic human being, I am – but because outrage without action is pointless. And the action, whether Trump likes it or not, will still be in the House and Senate.
Obamacare is the perfect example. Again, I don’t have to be the father of a daughter with a preexisting condition to care about the harm that will come if the law disappears, but it does lend an added degree of urgency to learn about repeal attempts and how to fight against them. Which is why I need to brush up on the budget reconciliation process, and learn about Senate Concurrent Resolution 3.
S.Con.Res 3 was introduced by Senate Budget Chair Mike Enzi (R-WY). Trump’s mostly meaningless executive order aside, it’s the single biggest threat to Obamacare repeal in Washington right now. The bad news is, it’s already passed both Houses of Congress, most notably making it through the Senate 51-48. Now, if you recall, thanks to a pretty much standing rule that everything in the Senate these days gets filibustered, most legislation needs 60 votes to make it through, but S.Con.Res 3 made it through with only 51 because of budget reconciliation. But it’s still a procedural action that will set up a final showdown that is still several weeks away, and the Republicans, after 7 years of promising a replacement, still don’t have one.
Republicans are characterizing this move as a “placeholder” for a real, actual budget that will be introcued… at some point. It is promised by Speaker Paul Ryan tht this budget will repeal Obamacare as well as defund Planned Parenthood.
The legislation did include a requirement that both the Senate and House introduce repeal legislation by… well, yesterday. Trump, not one to adhere to convention, is refusing to release specifics of his plan until his HHS Secretary, Tom Price is confirmed. This led to an “it-would-be-funny-if-it-wasn’t-so-terrifying” moment from Price’s confirmation hearing:
More important were the questions on health reform. Price was asked by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio): “President Trump said he’s working with you on a replacement plan for the ACA, which is nearly finished and will be revealed after your confirmation. Is that true?”
Price replied: “It’s true that he said that, yes.”
Democrats repeatedly grilled Price on whether or not he supported Republican proposals that would lead to fewer people having health insurance. Price averred that he wanted to “make certain that we have the highest quality health care and that every single American has access to affordable coverage.”
This “access” language is important to keep an eye on. After all, each and every one of us has “access” to a private jet. It’s an attempt to work around the Obamacare mandate, on which the preexisting condition coverage aspect of the law hinges. If you don’t make people get health care, but make insurance companies cover everyone, only sick people will buy health care, which is an unsustainable model. Not being able to be denied for a preexisting condition is the most important part of Obamacare. It was the conservative Heritage Foundation, along with Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney that used mandated coverage as the work-around. But then Barack Obama started doing it, and suddenly it wasn’t cool any more.
No Democrats voted for the resolution in either the House or Senate, which is a good sign.
During the roll call, Democrats staged a highly unusual protest on the Senate floor to express their dismay and anger at the prospect that millions of Americans could lose health insurance coverage.
One by one, Democrats rose to voice their objections. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington said that Republicans were “stealing health care from Americans.” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said he was voting no “because health care should not just be for the healthy and wealthy.”
The presiding officer, Senator Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, repeatedly banged his gavel and said the Democrats were out of order because “debate is not allowed during a vote.”
Of course, this would have worked better if there were enough of them to sink the bill, but since Senators Katie McGinty, Evan Bayh, Deborah Ross and Russ Feingold don’t exist right now, this is the best we can do. The next big show of support for Obamacare will come when it’s time for the Senate to confirm Price, a member of the “Tea Party Caucus” during his time in the House and who has described Planned Parenthood as “barbaric.” He’s also vehementy anti-gay rights:
Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of GLAAD, formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said Mr. Price was “completely unfit” to be health secretary.
When the Supreme Court ruled last year that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage, Mr. Price said it was “not only a sad day for marriage, but a further judicial destruction of our entire system of checks and balances.”
As always, I’ll be tracking the Senate vote on Mr. Price. But the Trump administration approach to Obamacare thus far is the same as it is with immigrants – unsurprising. This is what they said they would do, and this is what they are doing. It remains to be seen exactly how effective we can be in stopping it.