A GOP bill that would actually improve Obamacare was set for a vote today but was abruptly pulled by House leadership when conservative opposition derailed it.
Dubbed the “Helping Sick Americans Now” Act by its author, Majority Whip Eric Cantor, the bill would have rescued a particularly incompetently drawn part of Obamacare; insuring Americans with pre-existing conditions. The bill calls for transferring funds from a preventative disease account into high risk pools that would allow sick people to better able afford insurance.
Mr. Cantor should probably have stayed in bed. Democrats oppose the bill because — well, the Republicans proposed it. President Obama has promised a veto. And several conservative groups — including the Club for Growth who promised to “score” a vote on the bill for its report card — came out adamantly opposed to anything that smacks of improving Obamacare. In fact, many conservatives called for another symbolic vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
As this story in The Hill demonstrates, there was a lot of confusion prior to the Republican leadership pulling the bill:
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he asked leadership a lot of questions that weren’t answered at the committee meeting. King is undecided.
Pitts left the committee meeting fully prepared to head to the floor later in the afternoon to manage debate on his measure.
Asked if leaders had the votes for passage, Pitts acknowledged that he didn’t know, but that he was “willing to roll the dice.”
“As far as I know, we’re voting this afternoon,” Pitts told The Hill.
Moments later, the RSC chairman told The Hill that he didn’t know if, in fact, the bill would come up for a vote.
“I don’t know … I’m waiting for the votes to be called,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in an interview with The Hill.
Though Scalise supported the measure in the Energy and Commerce Committee, he wouldn’t commit to doing so on the House floor unless a pending amendment is adopted.
Pitts offered the amendment at the Rules Committee late Tuesday night to allay the concerns of GOP lawmakers that the money would go to the federal pool instead of the state-run high-risk pools.
Still, Pitts conceded “there are some people who still are hesitant because they don’t want to fix ObamaCare.”
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) – a declared “undecided” – left the RSC meeting with a more pessimistic outlook on the measure.
Based on the number of concerns that he heard voiced by his fellow RSC members, Brooks suggested it seems unlikely that GOP leaders would be able to pass the bill without the support of some Democrats.
“It’s pretty simple. We’re shifting money from one part of Obamacare we don’t support to another part of Obamacare we don’t support,” said Michigan’s Justin Amash. That pretty much sums up the truth of the matter.
What possessed Cantor to embark on this fruitless quest to improve Obamacare is a mystery. If he wanted to include help for Americans with pre-existing conditions, he might have included something in any “replacement” bill that the GOP is still insisting it wants after Obamacare is repealed. But to offer it as a stand alone bill that Democrats can unite against and conservatives can snipe at is bad strategy — and worse lawmaking.
Brent Bozell named the bill “Cantorcare.” It looks like the Majority Whip will have that name to live down for a long time.