Flickers of Bi-Partisanship on Obamacare Overhaul Will Come to Nothing

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It is generally believed that the House-passed Obamacare repeal/replace bill that recently passed is dead on arrival in the Republican Senate. But that doesn’t mean that the GOP has given up on Obamacare repeal. Senate GOP leaders have indicated that there will definitely be a vote in the near future to repeal and replace Obamacare, even if that vote takes place along party lines.


But there is no guarantee that the vote will succeed. And with Obamacare spiraling downward, making a total meltdown likely sooner rather than later, some Senators in both parties are eyeing a compromise solution to be readied in case a “Plan B” becomes necessary.

So far, talks have been very preliminary. But there is general agreement between centrists of both parties that there must be an alternative to doing nothing if Obamacare implodes.


But several senators from opposing parties have been informally discussing possible fixes to Obamacare. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has said repeatedly he’s uncomfortable with a party-line health care overhaul. “I hope for a bipartisan bill,” Graham said shortly before the House passed its bill.

Collins said much the same in a recent interview.

“I really want us to have a bipartisan bill. I just think will be so much better. And we have better ideas,” she said. “So that’s my goal. You end up with a better bill, you end up with better acceptance by the public.” Collins said a Democrat called her at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday to talk healthcare.

Cassidy and Collins’ efforts haven’t limited their talks to the handful of red-state Democrats whom the GOP once eyed as possible converts on health care. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), for one, spoke to Cassidy in March about the Republican’s efforts and praised him for the outreach.

“Sooner rather than later, we’ll return to those discussions,” Carper said.

In addition to Kaine and Carper, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) have spoken with Republicans in general terms about health care recently, according to several people familiar with the matter. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a leading figure in the GOP’s effort to repeal Obamacare, has also talked with Democrats including Kaine, though Alexander has mostly backed away since the House passed its bill last week. That plan would scale back Obamacare’s subsidies, slash its Medicaid expansion and give states the ability to allow insurers to charge more for people with preexisting conditions.

Any cooperation on health care undercuts both parties’ political strategy. Republican leaders are wary of handing any bipartisan accomplishments to the dozen-or-so vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection next year. And Democratic leaders want the GOP to fully own the beleaguered health care system going into the midterms.

So leaders in both parties are leaning hard on the rank-and-file not to cooperate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his team want Democrats to refuse to work with Republicans until they drop the “repeal” crusade, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is working only within his own party to craft a repeal bill that can pass with the votes of 50 of 52 GOP senators.


Bi-partisanship is a quaint, old fashioned notion, as is the art of governance. Today, the parties seek to pass or block legislation not on the merits of what’s being considered but how best the parties can take political advantage of what their opponents are doing.

In that atmosphere, the leadership will brook no deviation from party orthodoxy. So the idea that anything of value can come from discussions with the opposition may be noble, but is entirely superfluous. This is especially true in the House where many conservatives would cheer the destruction of the private insurance market as necessary  fallout to get rid of Obamacare and many liberals would celebrate the same thing because what they believe would be a massive political error by the GOP, leading to a House takeover in 2018.

There is no compromise in war. Only casualties.


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