Senators Better Get Ready to Explain their Failure to Repeal ObamaCare

By Tommy Binion, Director, Congressional and Executive Branch Relations, at The Heritage Foundation.

When ObamaCare repeal failed in the Senate, most of the news coverage was about the political implications. The media covered what happened and what it means in terms of Republicans and Democrats, votes, polls and swing districts. They focused on the politics rather than on the people behind the politics.

The American people, however, are going to feel this supposed failure in much more important ways than who wins the next election. For many families, health insurance is already unaffordable thanks to ObamaCare, and with this failure, it’ll cost more next year and the year after that.

There are indeed political implications involved with the fight to repeal ObamaCare. The Republican base is absolutely expecting the GOP to get it done, and if that does not happen, there will be a political price to pay. But that simple analysis ignore why ObamaCare was so unpopular in the first place.

America has the greatest health care available anywhere in the world. Americans access that care through health insurance. In its misguided zeal to get more individuals covered, ObamaCare saddled the health insurance market with disastrous regulations. Those regulations dramatically drove up the cost of health insurance. Americans who have watched their premiums increase every year know exactly whom to blame.

Those families needed relief from Congress, and the failure of this latest vote makes it less likely they’ll get it. If the news had been covering that story instead of the political horse race, the result may have been different.

That’s not the only story the news got wrong. If you read the headlines the day after the vote, you read that ObamaCare repeal is over. That’s not true.

The Senate has yet to repeal ObamaCare, but that does not mean it won’t happen. In fact, even if the senators themselves wanted to move on to another issue, they wouldn’t be able to.

This latest failed vote was actually an effort to “punt” the debate to a conference committee between the House and the Senate. “Skinny repeal,” as it was called, was not a serious effort to string together coherent policies. Rather, it was an admission that the Senate was stuck, and an effort to put the Senate into a procedural posture where it could motion to go to conference with the House. When that vote failed, the hot potato stayed in the Senate’s hands.

For those Americans facing skyrocketing costs, their only hope is that the Senate gives them relief by repealing ObamaCare.

The House’s reconciliation bill remains on the Senate calendar, and the Senate could return to this issue at any time. If the media is right about the political implications, then we can surely expect the Senate will return to the issue.

Even if Republican senators chose not to voluntarily return to ObamaCare repeal, it’s going to come up again and again. An issue as large as health care is impossible to ignore for very long. In fact, it’ll come up twice in the next two months. First, the president will have to decide whether to continue spending money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress on ObamaCare’s cost sharing reduction subsidies. Second, Congress is planning to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

In both of these cases and in many more in the future, the policy world will be focused on ObamaCare, and each senator who promised to repeal ObamaCare will have to explain why it hasn’t been done.

*This piece originally appeared in The Hill on 8/6/17

*To read this piece on The Heritage Foundation website, click here.

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