Tom Cotton beard halls of Congress

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Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. told the truth about the GOP plan to keep Obamacare in place this morning. Republicans need to get this legislation right on the first attempt, Cotton said, because the dirty secret in Washington is there is only one lasting chance for Obamacare repeal, and right now Republicans are blowing it.

Proponents of the American Health Care Act claim that full repeal of Obamacare cannot be accomplished in one bill due to limitations imposed by the budget reconciliation process. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. made this point at length in a press conference held last week. Republican leadership in the House of Representatives insists that the best way to move forward on repeal is in a three-step process.

Step one is to use budget reconciliation to repeal Obamacare taxes, eliminate the individual and employer mandates, tweak the subsidies, and repeal some minor regulations. Step two is to let Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price take administrative action to repeal the rest of the regulations and administer free-market reforms via agency promulgation. Step three is for Congress to legislate further reforms that cannot be included in reconciliation.

To some, GOP leadership’s proposals may seem reasonable on the surface. Sen. Tom Cotton warns that these are all lies.

“There is no three-phase process. There is no three-step plan. That is just political talk,” Sen. Cotton told radio host Hewitt Tuesday morning.  “It’s just politicians engaging in spin.”

Passing this bill would constitute a breach of repeated Republican campaign promises to fully repeal Obamacare.

The current GOP bill leaves Obamacare’s community rating and pre-existing conditions regulations in place, along with leaving the mandated essential benefits untouched. This is the very core of Obamacare. Sen. Cotton explained that leaving these pieces of Obamacare in place will not resolve the issue of rising health insurance premiums — one of the American people’s chief complaints against Obamacare.

Hugh, the most important thing driving the increases in premiums, not just in the individual markets, but in the job-based markets, are all the insurance regulations of Obamacare. I think we should take a bolder stance about the number of those regulations that can be included inside this process, because those regulations clearly have a huge budgetary impact. They are driving up the price of premiums by billions and billions of dollars in the aggregate, which means taxpayers are paying billions and billions of dollars in the aggregate on the individual market and through the Obamacare subsidies.

Leaving the repeal of these regulations to Sec. Tom Price in “step two” of the repeal effort runs into danger from a court challenge and “perhaps the whims of the most liberal judge in America,” Cotton explained. As Conservative Review’s Daniel Horowitz has previously written, the administrative repeal argument is a smoke and mirrors scheme. It is a way of taking responsibility for Obamacare away from elected representatives and handing it to unelected bureaucrats, outside of the control of the American people and free from the consequences of an election.

That leaves step three — a promise of futre health insurance reform that Cotton refers to as “mythical legislation.” He notes the idea that the Democrats will sign on to Republican proposals and overcome the 60-vote threshold to block a filibuster is unrealistic. This is another misdirection tactic from GOP leadership. If the 60 votes needed to pass health care reform were in the Senate, Republicans would not be pushing their current plan. 

“If we had those Democratic votes, we wouldn’t need three steps,” Cotton said. “We would just be doing that right now on this legislation altogether.”

“That’s why it’s so important that we get this legislation right, because there is no step three. And step two is not completely under our control.”

Sen. Cotton is absolutely right. While President Trump has endorsed to the RINOcare bill, the truth is there are intrinsic problems with the legislation —  namely that it does not repeal Obamacare. That fact will prevent the new law from lowering insurance premiums and expanding access to health insurance for millions of Americans who need it. Passing this bill would constitute a breach of repeated Republican campaign promises to fully repeal Obamacare.

There will be consequences for failing to get this right. As Cotton said, “not only do the American people have to live with these results in the long run, but he and everyone in Congress has to live with them as well.”

“And we’ve seen what can happen when health care goes wrong, both with the American people and for folks’ political prospects.”

Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer
and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are Conservative Political Philosophy, the American Founding, and Progressive Rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.