Love It. Improve It. Medicare For All!
Love It. Improve It. Medicare For All! Rally signs in Los Angeles (Photo: Molly Adams)

“This is an epic fail. This is his­toric. This is sev­en years of argu­ing going down the drain.”

Repub­li­can pun­dit Charles Krauthammer

Repub­li­can efforts to evis­cer­ate or sim­ply get rid of the Patient Pro­tec­tion and Afford­able Care Act have run into a series of fatal road­blocks in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate, which means mil­lions of Amer­i­cans have won a reprieve — at least for now —  from the threat of their health­care being tak­en away from them.

Road­block num­ber one was the col­lapse of Trump­cuts — the leg­is­la­tion that Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Don­ald Trump bad­ly want­ed to evis­cer­ate the PPA and pro­vide wealth­care for mil­lion­aires and billionaires.

The Sen­ate ver­sion of Trump­cuts implod­ed when two more of McConnel­l’s mem­bers announced they would not vote to pro­ceed with con­sid­er­a­tion of the bill.

(He had already lost Rand Paul and Susan Collins.)

Then McConnell announced he would try anoth­er gam­bit: hold a vote on sim­ply repeal­ing the land­mark leg­is­la­tion, which dates back to 2010.

That plan fell apart when Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Shel­ley Moore Capi­to, Lisa Murkows­ki, and Susan Collins said they weren’t on board.

“I can­not vote to pro­ceed to repeal the [Patient Pro­tec­tion Act] with­out reform that allows peo­ple the choice they want, the afford­abil­i­ty they need and the qual­i­ty of care they deserve,” Murkows­ki said in a state­ment defend­ing her deci­sion.

After road­block num­ber two appeared, Repub­li­can boss­es were vis­i­bly exasperated.

“This has been a very, very chal­leng­ing expe­ri­ence for all of us,” said a weary McConnell, the top Sen­ate Repub­li­can, who has been try­ing for weeks to fig­ure out a way to take away the health­care of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans but has failed.

“It’s pret­ty obvi­ous that we don’t have fifty mem­bers who can agree on a replace­ment,” McConnell added, fail­ing to admit that he and his par­ty have had sev­en years to devel­op a “replace­ment”, but have utter­ly failed to do so because most of them do not believe that health­care is a human right.

What they have done instead is nois­i­ly com­plain at every turn and scheme end­less­ly to gut the law, through judi­cial, leg­isla­tive, or exec­u­tive action. Don­ald Trump has now sug­gest­ed, in the wake of today’s devel­op­ments, that he will try to use exec­u­tive pow­er to sab­o­tage the law so it can’t work the way Con­gress intend­ed to. If his min­ions car­ry out such threats, though, they can expect litigation.

McConnel­l’s Plan C is to just go through the motions and hope for the best:

McConnell said Tues­day evening that he would hold a vote to pro­ceed to the bill “ear­ly next week,” which would put sen­a­tors on the record even if the vote’s out­come was preordained.

McConnell said the vote was “at the request of the pres­i­dent and vice pres­i­dent and after con­sult­ing with our members.”

Trump is also launch­ing a renewed push to try and revive the GOP’s near-dead efforts to repeal [the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act] by invit­ing all Sen­ate Repub­li­cans to the White House for lunch Wednes­day. He believes he can get an agree­ment to move for­ward by twist­ing arms and nego­ti­at­ing him­self, accord­ing to sources famil­iar with the mat­ter, although Sen­ate Repub­li­cans are not optimistic.

Trump is delu­sion­al. It’s quite appar­ent at this junc­ture that he does­n’t under­stand how to nego­ti­ate or how to gov­ern. Most Amer­i­cans now real­ize this. A large major­i­ty of the vot­ing pub­lic are already sick of his cir­cus act. After near­ly six months in pow­er, Trump is deeply unpop­u­lar and grow­ing more unpop­u­lar by the day.

Sad­ly, as Amer­i­ca does­n’t have the safe­ty valve of snap elec­tions like par­alia­men­tary democ­ra­cies have, there is no way to dis­solve Trump’s dys­func­tion­al regime and allow Amer­i­cans to go back to the polls to choose a more com­pe­tent president.

Trump (and his lieu­tenant Mike Pence) could be removed from office through impeach­ment and con­vic­tion, but that would require that Con­gress be run by Trump’s oppo­si­tion as opposed to his stooges. That’s not the case today.

What is tru­ly iron­ic about all of this is that the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act is a most­ly Repub­li­can approach to health­care that was adopt­ed by Barack Oba­ma and bicon­cep­tu­al Democ­rats. The law is based in large part on ideas that Repub­li­can Mitt Rom­ney cham­pi­oned and imple­ment­ed while as gov­er­nor of Massachusetts.

Con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats — includ­ing Pat­ty Mur­ray, who appeared on MSNBC’s Meet the Press Dai­ly today — have become very com­fort­able defend­ing the sta­tus quo that the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act now represents.

But the sta­tus quo isn’t good enough. The PPA has helped mil­lions of peo­ple, but it did not pro­vide for a sys­tem of uni­ver­sal cov­er­age. We still need that.

If Democ­rats want to return to pow­er in Con­gress in 2018, they should cam­paign on a plat­form of sin­gle pay­er, uni­ver­sal health­care cov­er­age for all, which is some­thing that’s actu­al­ly in many Demo­c­ra­t­ic plat­forms, but which most con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats regret­tably don’t talk about all that often — or ever.

NPI’s research has found that ful­ly half of Wash­ing­ton State’s elec­torate strong­ly sup­ports the idea of Medicare for all, with anoth­er chunk of vot­ers some­what sup­port­ive. Nation­al sur­veys have found sim­i­lar enthu­si­asm.

If Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers like Chuck Schumer and Nan­cy Pelosi tru­ly want to get out of the polit­i­cal wilder­ness, then they must embrace the idea of uni­ver­sal health­care cov­er­age. Not just tol­er­ate it, but embrace it. Love it. Cham­pi­on it. Ask all Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­gres­sion­al can­di­dates to run on it.

It’s a sure­fire way to draw an effec­tive con­trast with the Repub­li­cans, intrigue inde­pen­dent vot­ers, and moti­vate the base to turn out.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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