The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

They’re Ba-ack! Congress Returns

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


With apologies to Poltergeist, the Congress returns this week from its Independence Day break.  All eyes are on the Senate as the country wonders if the Republicans can come together and pass healthcare legislation that will stabilize the individual health insurance market that has been devastated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare.

During the July 4th break, several news reports have focused on a luncheon meeting Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had at a Rotary Club in his home state of Kentucky.  He said, “If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur” and declared, “no action is not an alternative." McConnell said. "We've got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state.”  In other words, if the Republicans cannot pass a bill through the reconciliation process that avoids a Democrat filibuster, the only option left is to craft legislation with the Democrats, which have stated they will not vote to repeal Obamacare.

Some conservative healthcare policy experts have argued if Republican leadership is forced to work with Democrats on writing a new healthcare reform bill, the likely result will be an expensive propping up of the ACA and there will no reform of Medicaid.  That would be a major setback.  It is vitally important that Obamacare’s onerous mandates be repealed and regulation of health insurance be devolved back to the states.  Plus, Medicaid is one of the entitlement programs with growth projections that has been declared unsustainable by government actuaries and healthcare experts.  Both the GOP House and Senate bills address these issues.

There also have been calls for writing separate repeal and replace bills.  Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) wrote a letter to President Trump on June 30 stating that if the Senate could not reach agreement by July 10 that he should “call on the Congress to do two things: (1) to immediately repeal as much of ObamaCare as is possible under Congressional budget reconciliation rules, and then (2) to cancel the scheduled August state work period and instead to spend that month working through regular order, six days per week, writing a health reform package with a vote to be scheduled on Labor Day.”  Sen. Sasse closed by stating, "This two-step plan to keep our two promises – both repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with a system that provides affordable and portable health insurance – seem like a no-brainer to this gym rat.” Later that day, the President tweeted to the Senate, “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” Other senators, such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have also joined in calling for two separate bills.

On Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) stated on CBS’s Face the Nation that he believed the Senate bill is, “probably dead,” while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on the same show, “I continue to believe we can get this done.”  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) discussed the problems with crafting legislation on NBC’s Meet the Press: “I think this bill is better than Obamacare.  Whether or not we can come together I don’t know … I would support the proposal before us, but you’ve got different camps in the Republican Party.”

The July 2, Politico reported that ten Republican senators sent a letter to Leader McConnell just before the July break, asking him to shorten or cancel the August recess if they do not make any progress in not only passing healthcare legislation, but other GOP priorities as well, such as tax reform. That's a good idea.  There are only 14 legislative days left before the August recess and 33 possible working days before the end of the fiscal year, September 30.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats continue to condemn the Senate Republican healthcare bill.  The July 6, Washington Times reported one Democrat stated the GOP bill would make “the Wicked Witch of the West cringe,” and that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the bill, “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” while Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) declared the Republican bill was “truly putting lipstick on a pig.”  Certainly a lot of hyperbole but those terms are more easily applied to Obamacare, which is collapsing across the country.

We will know soon enough if the Senate Republicans can come together.  The House Republicans had similar problems getting a bill passed but were able to do it.

The bottom line is the GOP must do something to help the American people get relief from Obamacare.  They have been able to gain control of the reins of government on this important promise.  Sen. McConnell is correct; doing nothing is not an alternative.

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