Facing a rebellion within their own ranks, Senate Republican leaders on Tuesday postponed a vote to overhaul the 2010 Affordable Care Act until after the July 4 recess.
The delay, which came after five Senate Republicans said they could not support a move to bring up the bill this week in the wake of a new budget analysis of its impacts, means that lawmakers will be exposed to a barrage of lobbying in their home states in the coming days. The current proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which would make deep cuts to the Medicaid program while rolling back many of the existing law’s insurance mandates and tax increases, has come under attack from both the left and right.
The war is far from over. But what’s significant about this is that it shows the conflict within the Republican conference isn’t just kabuki. In itself, delay is bad for Republicans — if McConnell had the votes, they’d be voting. This doesn’t mean he can’t get them — he might — but he doesn’t have them now. The pressure needs to be kept up.
The complete inability of the Republicans to do policy might actually save the ACA. I assume McConnell and the rest of the Gang of 13 expected to backload enough cuts to get the CBO uninsured number under 20 million, and using this to get the media to use the House bill rather than the status quo as a baseline, and presto a “the Senate bill is much less mean!” narrative. But the numbers were so close they couldn’t do that. If the arguments being made by conservative “intellectuals” are any indication, they genuinely don’t seem to understand that poor people don’t have any money and hence aren’t going to buy and maintain plans with insanely high deductibles.
Again, it’s entirely possible that the same process that played out with AHCA will play out here. But passage is not inevitable — it’s a fight that can be won.