On the day after the stunning collapse of the Senate’s Obamacare replacement bill, some Republican commentators are throwing shade at Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY). See, for example, MSNBC's and Salem Radio's Hugh Hewitt:
Talk radio host Mike Gallagher did the same. So did Fox News’ Brit Hume:
But here is the fact: the Senate health care bill did not repeal Obamacare. Obamacare was never in danger. It still isn’t. Its key regulations remain, and few Republicans were willing to vote to remove them. Yes, the Senate health care bill did some good things: it restructured Medicaid grants, for example, and it cut some of Obamacare’s taxes while leaving others. But some of the elements of the bill that would be wins in a vacuum actually undercut the health care market in others: in a normal world, removing the individual mandate would be a good thing, but the bill replaced the individual mandate with a back-door mandate that actually makes the funding mechanism for insurance companies weaker, requiring permanent subsidization of those insurance companies.
There’s a case to be made that the bill should have been passed for what it was — a revision to Obamacare that could have alleviated some of Obamacare’s worst features. But to claim that Lee and Paul “saved Obamacare” is ridiculous. President Trump was never willing to fully repeal Obamacare — and talk today about Senate Republicans passing a repeal still aren’t, since even the 2015 Republican repeal bill didn’t actually repeal the central Obamacare regulations.
Which means that the talk about repealing Obamacare is just another ruse, an attempt to lie to conservative voters about what our elected representatives are doing, and castigate conservatives for refusing to lie. If Republicans had billed this all along as an Obamacare “fix,” they’d have been more accurate, and they’d earn more conservative support. But peeing on our leg, telling us it’s raining, and then blaming us for objecting to the stench of urine isn’t a great legislative strategy.