Most Senate Republicans are all but laughing at popular vote loser Donald Trump and their fellow senators Ben Sasse (NE) and Rand Paul (KY) for the harebrained suggestion that they just do repeal of Obamacare now and figure the hard stuff out later. It’s a lead balloon.
- “Not going to happen,” said one senior GOP aide. “15 votes for that strategy. Which is why we are where we are.”
- Another senior GOP aide went further, saying if the president continues his erratic messaging, “Not really seeing anything happening in July if this keeps up.”
- And a third GOP aide said the chances of repealing first and replacing later are “zero.”
That’s not going to stop Paul from running to the microphones to claim credit for the idea (it came from Sasse) and to say that Trump is all for it.
“Senator Rand Paul suggested this very idea to the President,” Paul’s spokesman Sergio Gor told Yahoo News Friday. “He fully agrees that we must immediately repeal Obamacare and then work on replacing it right away.”
That’s not going to happen. Largely because that first aide is right—the large majority of Republicans would completely reject it. And because it would completely screw up the legislative strategy they crafted to do both repeal and replace and tax reform. Under the rules they passed with budget reconciliation instructions, they can only do one Obamacare thing. Once it’s done, they can do the tax thing. They don’t have a mechanism for doing a second health bill outside of regular order, where they have to have 60 votes. And it doesn’t seem too likely that McConnell would go nuclear—get rid of the filibuster entirely—for this. If he can’t get 50 votes together for Trumpcare, he’d face a revolt if he tried to force this.
What this does do, however, is create more turmoil for McConnell and give us more time to fight it. That’s the positive. The negative is that it’s just one more indication from Trump that he’s ready to do whatever is necessary to blow up Obamacare, and that’s a big problem for insurers, already facing uncertainty and confusion about the future of the program. That’s bad news for Obamacare, but far worse news for the people who need it.