WASHINGTON To succeed in gutting health coverage for millions of Americans, Senate Republican leaders need to get a series of lies accepted as truth. Journalists and other neutral arbiters must resist the temptation to report these lies as just a point of view. A lie is a lie.
Lie One: Democrats and progressives are unwilling to work with Republicans and conservatives on this issue. “If we went and got the single greatest health care plan in the history of the world, we would not get one Democrat vote,” President Donald Trump told an Iowa crowd last Wednesday.
In fact, Democrats, including President Barack Obama when he was in office, have said repeatedly they would like to work with Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s office put out a list of such offers, including a June 15 letter from Schumer to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for a cross-party meeting to “find a way to make health care more affordable and accessible.”
But Democrats can never be complicit in a wholesale repeal of Obamacare that would take health coverage away from millions of Americans.
This first lie is important because it rationalizes the Republican claim that the bill has to be draconian because it can’t pass without support from the party’s most right-wing legislators. “This is not the best possible bill,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. “It is the best bill possible under very difficult circumstances.”
But those “circumstances” have been created by the GOP itself. A completely different coalition is available, but Republicans don’t want to activate it because they are hell-bent on repealing Obamacare. Why?
This brings us to Lie Two: This bill is primarily about improving health care for American families. No, this effort is primarily about cutting taxes. When it comes to health care, the main thing the bill does is take money away from providing it to pay for the tax reductions it contains and for future bonanzas the Republicans have promised.
The tax cuts in this legislation alone would amount to some $700 billion over a decade, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. About $33 billion of this would go to tax cuts conservatively averaging $7 million every year to each of the 400 highest-income families in the country. What could $33 billion buy? The CBPP reports it would be enough to pay for the expansion of Medicaid in Nevada, West Virginia, Arkansas and Alaska. Talk about income redistribution.
A telltale: One of the main Republican complaints about Obamacare has been that the deductibles and co-pays under ACA policies are too high. But the Republican bill only makes this problem worse.
As The New York Times’ Margot Sanger-Katz wrote: “Many middle-income Americans would be expected to pay a larger share of their income to purchase health insurance that covers a smaller share of their care.”
If this bill were truly about health care, Republicans would take all the tax cuts out and use that money to ease the pain their bill would cause. But they won’t, because the tax cuts are the thing that matters to them.
Lie Three: The Senate bill is a “compromise.” Really? Between whom? The House wants to destroy Obamacare quickly, the Senate a bit more slowly while also cutting Medicaid more steeply over time. This is only a “compromise” between two very right-wing policies.
Imagine you are negotiating with two creditors who say you owe them $1,000 and you insist you owe nothing. The first creditor wants the money quickly. The second says you can take a bit little longer, but you have to pay $1,200 – and he has the nerve to call this a “compromise.” Nowhere in this deal is your position taken into account. Welcome to the logic of the Senate health care bill.
I hope I never have to write about Lie Four, which would be Republican senators who surely know better – including Susan Collins, Dean Heller, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, Shelley Moore Capito and Rob Portman – justifying their votes for this monstrosity by claiming that it’s the best they could do.
Actually, only by killing this bill would these senators open the way for reasonable fixes to the ACA. Do they really want to say someday that one of their most important votes in the Senate involved taking health care away from millions of Americans? I would like to believe they are too decent for that (and Heller, for one, criticized the bill on Friday). I hope I’m not lying to myself.
E.J. Dionne’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @EJDionne.