On the evening of Friday, March 24, the House of Representatives leadership determined they could not get enough votes for the American Health Care Act. The AHCA was withdrawn and that bill is dead.
Accordingly for the time being, Obamacare will remain as the law of the land. However, after the dust settles, and we all have a chance to take a deep breath and reflect on our country’s needs, I believe we need to return to working for health insurance reform.
Republicans are in agreement that Obamacare must be repealed. However, there are disagreements as to which is the best way to replace it. The discussion can get messy, but this is the result of giving everyone opportunity to read and understand what’s in the bill.
This is a stark contrast to the way the Democrats did it when they shoved Obamacare through. With little known about the content, Majority Leader Pelosi directed them to “pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
Instead, America is witnessing the spirited debate and clash of ideas anticipated by the Founding Fathers when they established the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill’s failure is undoubtedly a setback in our efforts to fix America’s health insurance system by repealing and replacing Obamacare, but it is not complete defeat.
Obamacare has failed. Copays are higher, deductibles are higher, insurance rates are higher. Just because you have a piece of paper that says you have health insurance doesn’t mean you have adequate health care. Because of this, I believe we have to repeal Obamacare and this bill would have been a step in the right direction to replace it.
It was not a perfect bill, or even a great bill, but it was a good first step and there can be no real change without a first step. Ronald Reagan’s Chief of Staff, James Baker, said President Reagan used to tell him, “Jim, I’d rather get 80 percent of what I want than go over the cliff with my flag flying.” I agree.
While I had decided to get the 80 percent included in the AHCA, many Republicans felt the bill either went too far or not far enough. Unfortunately, because of this, some of my colleagues decided to go over the cliff with their flag flying. Interestingly, these colleagues came from both the moderate wing and the very Conservative wing of the Republican party.
That being said, the biggest culprit in preventing the compromises needed to resolve the differences within the House Republican Conference is the arcane Senate rules. Both the special rules related to budget reconciliation and the Senate’s modern filibuster/cloture/hold rules, make it impossible to have a smooth transition and also fix all the problems at once.
The Senate’s reconciliation rules allow a parliamentary challenge which can discard a House bill that is noncompliant with the strict requirements. The 60 vote requirement put in place by the modern filibuster/cloture/hold rule will be nearly impossible to meet with any replacement bill not done under reconciliation because Democrats refuse to consider replacement options. They currently hold 46 seats.
Despite the clear message from American voters to repeal Obamacare and the increasing evidence highlighting Obamacare’s failures, not one single Democrat was willing to join Republicans in voting for the AHCA. They are united in defense of President Obama, even when they know his plan doesn’t work.
The Democrats fought the AHCA tooth and nail. During the committee markup, Congressman Sarbanes (D-MD) said, “Make no mistake this proposal will effectively destroy the health insurance exchanges.” His comment is confirmation that the AHCA did in fact essentially repeal Obamacare. The Democrats believed if we couldn’t pass the AHCA, Obamacare, even though flawed, will be here to stay. And while I hope that isn’t so, they may be right.
I believed this replacement plan was better than sticking with Obamacare, but since we couldn’t get the support, we must move on to other replacement plans. I will continue to work for the people of the Ninth to bring true improvements to the health insurance and health care systems.
After a short weekend to catch my breath, I will be back in Washington to continue working for solutions. If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.