When the House of Representatives released its “American Health Care Act” this week, progressives predictably pounced. “Is this what we were waiting for?” liberal “explainer” sites like Vox smugly wondered, not mentioning that Americans are still waiting for their premiums to decrease by $2,500 under Obamacare instead of increasing by $3,775.
That $6,275 broken promise, by the way, could buy a lower income American worker a reliable car or cover a year in mortgage payments. Explain that, please.
Republicans, meanwhile, split into three camps. The first camp welcomed the bill as an imperfect but critical first step toward reform. The other two camps were more critical.
One side offered principled and thoughtful criticisms while the other side used the fog of procedure (i.e., confusion about what can and can’t be done in reconciliation) to cloak rank political opportunism in the language of principled “policy” concern.
Republicans, meanwhile, split into three camps.
Among the bill’s truly principled critics, Avik Roy may stand the tallest. Unlike many critics, he’s taken the time to offer a detailed alternative. His concerns should be absorbed, considered and not dismissed. When I worked for then-U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), our staff offered various Obamacare alternatives. The Left pretended those proposals didn’t exist, while most conservatives ignored them as they sought more purist options. Roy, meanwhile, would reliably show up and carpet-bomb the opposition with syllogisms (i.e., Medicaid delivers inferior outcomes and many doctors don’t accept new Medicaid patients, therefore we should not blindly assume Medicaid expansion will help poor people, Roy might argue).
But principled critics like Roy may be in the minority. Many critics on the right are simply RINOs (Rebels in Name Only) who believe it is more advantageous to complain about “leadership” or “Obamacare lite” or “new entitlements” than do the hard of work of participating in the form of constitutional government our Founders designed.
Chief of among the RINOs is Rand Paul, the junior U.S. Senator from Kentucky who, in recent days, has sought to portray himself as a mere Xerox machine delivery man from Louisville who can’t seem to find his way in Washington.
I applaud Paul for actually offering ideas. But, I’m sorry, he is not a marginalized constituent receiving, “Thank you for expressing your concerns” form letters ghost written by a 24-year-old legislative correspondent. Nor is he stuck in line waiting to get into the Capitol Visitor’s Center in August, sweat dripping off his brow. He’s a United States Senator. Rand Paul is the elite of the elite. He isn’t just a “one percenter.” He’s part of the 0.0000003 percent (that’s 100 Senators out of a country of more than 300 million). He’s even a legacy senator in what could be a nascent dynasty.
Rand Paul is the elite of the elite. He isn’t just a “one percenter.” He’s part of the 0.0000003 percent (that’s 100 Senators out of a country of more than 300 million).
Paul enjoys the same privileges as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. He gets to use the cloakroom when most working Americans are thankful for 15 minutes in a break room. He can stroll at will into the Senate dining room, where he might see Martin Scorsese regaling Sheldon Whitehouse or Richard Gere lunching with John McCain. By playing the victim card, the privileged Paul diminishes himself, his cause, the institution in which he serves and, most importantly, his constituents who expect results.
Oh, it’s about transparency, he argues. Well, if Paul believes the process is secretive, as a senator he alone is responsible for his failure to make his solutions more popular.
Let’s be honest. While Donald Trump may be responsible for Rand Paul’s failure to win the Republican nomination, Paul Ryan isn’t responsible for Rand Paul’s failure to win co-sponsors for his legislation. (His bill, S. 222, has one co-sponsor.) Again, as a member of the world’s most exclusive club, Paul can be in the room — the Inner Sanctum — as Congress shapes repeal-and-replace legislation in a conference committee between the House and Senate. All he has to do is persuade his colleagues his bill is best.
Still, there are very serious policy concerns with the House bill that members will work through. But make no mistake: Doing nothing is not an option. Obamacare’s collapse is a reality, not a talking point. Insurance companies believe Obamacare is in a death spiral and are bailing out. If the repeal and replace effort fails, Americans can thank Paul and the RINO’s when their options go from one provider to zero.
Doing nothing is not an option. Obamacare’s collapse is a reality, not a talking point. Insurance companies believe Obamacare is in a death spiral and are bailing out.
I spoke to Tom Coburn this week and he offered some sage advice. He’s no raging fan of the House bill, but he has no patience for those who want to do nothing but complain and posture.
“They’re right,” Coburn said of the critics, “if we had 60 votes [in the Senate]. But they don’t have 60 votes. So what Rand Paul and the Freedom Caucus want to do is impossible.”
He added, “The enemy of good is perfect.”
President Trump is going to find the hardest part about draining the swamp may be evicting his “friends” who have set up shop on its shores. For many creatures of Washington draining the swamp — returning power to the people — is going to be very bad for business. That’s because for many in the anti-establishment establishment complaining about Obamacare and “leadership” is the only business they know.
But in 2017 that just isn’t a credible argument. Anyone still claiming that outsiders can’t infiltrate American politics and win has been asleep for the past year.
So, as Republicans struggle to separate principled arguments from opportunistic ones, I would offer this advice: Remember former U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp. Huelskamp thought Kansas voters would eat up his anti-establishment tirades for eternity until he learned too late they wanted results. Huelskamp was primaried by an unassuming but capable doctor named Roger Marshall and lost.
Remember former U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp.
If Coburn was a rebel with a cause, Huelskamp was a rebel without a cause. Instead of offering solutions — earmark reform, Obamacare alternatives, fiscally responsible spending bills, structural entitlement reform, etc. — Huelskamp offered excuses. Coburn showed leadership a better way until a better way became their way. Huelskamp simply offered his way. And then voters showed him the door.
In the health care fight the RINOs will soon learn they’ve set themselves on a collision course with Trump. If the 2016 primary results are any indication, they’re going to have a very hard time.
John Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @johnhart333.