Early Friday morning, in the well of the U.S. Senate, President Donald Trump and his band of playground bullies finally met their match: Two women and a real man.
The trio, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona, all Republicans, joined a unified Democratic opposition to kill the so-called “skinny repeal” of Obamacare, 51-48.
For now and perhaps for good, in one of the most dramatic votes witnessed in recent years, the seven-year push by the GOP to repeal and replace or simply repeal the Affordable Care Act has collapsed.
The failed effort paves the way for something incredible to happen that Americans have been clamoring for in their government: A bipartisan approach to fixing the nation’s healthcare system. As we said in previous editorials, Obamacare needs to be shored up, stabilizing insurance markets that have in some places abandoned consumers or left them with few insurers to choose from. Premiums for middle- or upper-income earners also need to be curbed.
The GOP’s skinny repeal, orchestrated in secret by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was anything but skinny: As it was laid out, it would have caused chaos in the health insurance markets and premiums to soar, mostly by eliminating the mandate for Americans to buy or get health insurance, but also by wiping out the medical device tax.
Without mandates and penalties to back them up, many people, and particularly younger and healthier Americans, likely would forego health insurance or buy scaled down insurance. Such a system defies the basic principles of insurance that spreads risk among all – young, old and healthy and sick – to keep premiums and costs manageable.
In all, 16 million additional people would be without health insurance by 2026, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO also estimated that premiums in the individual market would increase by 20 percent compared to current law in all years between 2018 and 2026.
Without a true fix, the GOP led by Trump had to resort to masquerade plans that were dressed up to look like something they weren’t. Desperate to keep promises made over seven years, including by Trump on the campaign trail, they threw anything out. But in the end, nothing stuck to the Senate wall.
All of the proposals Republicans forwarded would have resulted in tens of millions of Americans losing coverage with the working poor, disabled, and folks with preexisting conditions and middle-aged — who are too young for Medicare and too rich for Medicaid — bearing the loss. That should have been unacceptable to McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
But they rolled over for Trump and his minions who took to Twitter with intimidating tweets to Collins and Murkowski, challenges to duels (I wish I were making that up) and threats of holding up federal aid or economic initiatives to Alaska to punish Murkowski for her steadfast opposition to GOP plans.
The ladies demonstrated the kind of leadership the nation needs – and has longed for — to deal with complex issues, particularly in fixing the nation’s healthcare system. Their leadership was a huge contrast with Trump’s governance by intimidation, browbeating and humiliation.
Vice President Mike Pence, who evermore takes on the presence of a sycophant for Trump, showed up in the Senate on Friday to break the tie. But his vote was unnecessary. Collins and Murkowski cast their votes as voting began at 1:24 a.m. McCain in high drama kept his vote under wraps from the public until 1:29 a.m., when he walked on the Senate floor, approached the Senate clerk and gave a thumbs down.
Following his vote, McCain told reporters that he thought voting no “was the right thing to do.”
Explaining his vote, the ailing McCain, who will face a tough road ahead as he is treated for brain cancer, signaled that healthcare reform should be done through bipartisan efforts. He is correct.
“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict party-line basis without a single Republican vote.”
“We should not make the mistakes of the past.”
No one knows for sure where things go from here. Unfortunately, the GOP healthcare replacements, bad as they are, seem to rise from the grave like Lazarus.
But for a moment, the nation witnessed a splendid act with two women and a real man standing for what is right against powerful playground bullies. The three put country over politics.
That is what courage and strength look like.