A report in the Washington Post published Tuesday detailed a call between Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and a group of Republican donors that shows you everything wrong with the Republican Party.
In a Feb. 6 conference call, of which partial recordings were given to the Post, McCarthy blamed Freedom Caucus conservatives for the GOP losses in the 2018 midterms. Specifically, McCarthy said that health care was the issue that most hurt Republicans in the campaign and that the conservatives pushing for full repeal of Obamacare, pre-existing conditions regulations and all, were at fault.
“When we couldn’t pass the repeal of Obamacare the first way through, an amendment came because the Freedom Caucus wouldn’t vote for” the GOP leadership bill, McCarthy said. “That amendment put [the] preexisting condition campaign against us, and so even people who are running for the very first time got attacked on that. And that was the defining issue and the most important issue in the race.”
McCarthy is feeding Republican donors a load of horse manure. Essentially, he’s telling the people he’s asking for money that Republicans lost the 2018 midterms because conservative Republicans tried to make the GOP keep its promises. The Freedom Caucus position on Obamacare was always that Republicans should do what they said — namely, after eight years of promising to fully repeal Obamacare, the GOP should have fully repealed Obamacare! But the “repeal” plan offered by McCarthy and the moderate Republicans in Congress left intact the regulations responsible for making health insurance unaffordable. Calling the 2017 American Health Care Act an Obamacare “repeal” is dishonest. Even the CBO confirmed that the GOP plan would have failed to lower insurance costs.
Fully repealing Obamacare “root and branch” was the main promise of the Republican Party since 2010. The law that was supposed to make health insurance affordable caused heath insurance premiums to skyrocket. Doctors who couldn’t afford to navigate the bureaucracy were pushed out of business. The government empowered a cartel of insurance companies to dominate the health care industry by forcing people to buy their product, reducing choice and competition. Medicaid expansion ran up the federal budget deficit and, along with our unsecured borders, created the nation’s opioid crisis. How many times do we have to re-litigate Obamacare’s failures?
Yet in spite of these failures, in spite of the Republican House majority gained in 2010, Senate majority gained in 2014, and President Trump elected in 2016, all elected with a mandate to repeal Obamacare, public support for the law increased during the debate over its repeal. McCarthy is right to point to the pre-existing conditions problem as the source of the law’s popularity — but what he doesn’t mention is that during this debate, the Republican Party never made the argument against the regulation! President Trump should have used the bully pulpit of the presidency to argue that the pre-existing condition problem is created by decades of government intervention. Congressional Republicans should have introduced bills to create free market reforms and made the argument that innovative ideas like health status insurance can help people who have medical conditions but don’t have insurance.
Instead, the GOP plan accepted the Democratic Party’s premises on health insurance, kept Obamacare’s regulations, and asked Republican voters to turn around and vote for them in 2018 after breaking their promises. And the Freedom Caucus compromised repeatedly with McCarthy and House leadership, ultimately passing a bill that the late Sen. John McCain killed in the Senate.
They took ownership of Obamacare. And as McCarthy does note, this killed them at the ballot box: “Republicans carried the economy overwhelmingly. We carried even immigration. We even carried the social issues. But there was one issue we lost overwhelmingly — it was health care by 66 points. Had we lost health care just by 34 points, we’d still be in the majority. We’d have those other 80,000 votes that we needed.”
The Freedom Caucus didn’t lose the Republican majority by arguing to eliminate pre-existing conditions regulations. Republican leadership lost the majority by refusing to have the argument and failing to keep their promise to repeal Obamacare.
McCarthy won’t take responsibility for his failure. Instead, as always, the Republican Party leadership blames conservatives for being too crazy, too right-wing, too radical. They say conservatives should be more pragmatic, that we should lower our expectations. But who set the expectations? Who promised to fully repeal Obamacare “root and branch”? Who campaigned on full repeal in every election since 2010? Who told conservatives 85 percent of Obamacare could be repealed without a filibuster-proof Senate majority? GOP leadership made those promises!
But lest you think McCarthy and others in GOP leadership are the problem with the Republican Party, pay very close attention to what a GOP donor on this conference call reportedly said back to McCarthy. Bringing up the health care issue and Obamacare repeal, the donor told McCarthy to “get off that horse — it ain’t gonna happen” and added, “If Obamacare’s that bad, it’s going to fail on its own.”
That’s a revealing attitude. It tells you that this Republican donor likely has enough money that he or she isn’t affected by the skyrocketing health insurance premiums millions of American face. This is someone who doesn’t feel the crushing costs of the failing health insurance system. This person won’t be one of the two-thirds of Americans who list illness or medical bills as the reason they filed for bankruptcy. So repealing Obamacare isn’t a priority for this GOP donor.
But most Americans aren’t rich Republican donors. They do face those health care costs. And when the Republican Party fails to offer alternative ideas to lower health care costs, when they accept the Democrats’ premises on policy, and when the GOP donor class signs off on it because they don’t care about you, Americans will go elsewhere for solutions. They will elect socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who promise to guarantee health care to everyone as a right and pass single-payer Medicare-for-All to do it.
And at that point? The Republican Party can choke on socialism because it did nothing to stop it.
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.
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