Congressional Leadership Continues to Undermine Public Process on Healthcare

I hope you’re sitting down for what I’m about to tell you. The heightened partisanship behind health care reform didn’t stop when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the very unpopular Republican Senate bill earlier this week. I’m sure you’re surprised to learn that. As we speak, a group of Republicans are continuing to craft their bill. There is an addition to the group now meeting, Rep. Mark Meadows who helped push the unpopular House version through is working with Senators on theirs.

McConnell led a group of 12 other male Republican Senators to craft an Obamacare repeal and replacement bill behind closed doors. The secrecy was allowed to continue by complaisant Senators like North Dakota’s own Senator John Hoeven. When the bill was revealed, and the CBO score came down, the public outcry was loud. Some polls show public support for their efforts to be between 16% and 25% approval. As a result, McConnell pulled the bill because they didn’t have the votes.

Following the defeat, Senator McConnell threatened his GOP members by saying if Republicans don’t come together quickly, bipartisanship would be required to get healthcare reform done. Read that last sentence again because it bears repeating. Getting partisan victories is somehow more important than coming together to solve something that impacts every single one of us and one-sixth of the economy.

Senator Heidi Heitkamp

In response to McConnell, some Democratic Senators including Senator Heidi Heitkamp took to the Senate floor late yesterday to show they are willing to work across the aisle on solutions. During their remarks, suggestions and bills were offered. Every single one was objected to by the Republicans. They were rejected not because of their ideas, but because they were offered by Democrats. Affordability of individual insurance seemed to be their theme. One of the immediate ways to assist the American public with that cost sharing is fulfilling the current law’s funding requirements. In other words, the Trump administration should stop sabotaging the current marketplace payments. Stop-gap measures while they continue to work in bipartisan fashion to keep what is working in current law and fix what is not working. Such a profound idea.

While the Senate Republican leadership rejected the notion of working with Senate Democrats, they have no problem of working with Republicans on the other, separate, chamber in Congress. Reports from Washington today state that Rep. Mark Meadows (R – NC) the Freedom Caucus Chair who helped negotiate the unpopular House bill through its narrow partisan passage is on the Senate side working on healthcare. This is significant because House leadership has indicated they are willing to simply have an up or down vote on whatever the Senate passes. In other words, the House is negotiating their differences with the Senate right now which eliminates the public conference committee process.

Congressman Kevin Cramer

Where does that leave us in North Dakota’s delegation? Congressman Kevin Cramer is going to vote for any healthcare bill placed in front of him. He campaigned on repeal and replace since 2012. Cramer already supported the very unpopular House bill that President Trump called “mean.” He was quick to jump on the bus to the White House and take some selfies in the Rose Garden before President Trump threw him and the other House Republicans under said bus.

Senator Hoeven, on the other hand, came out opposed to the Senate version after McConnell had already pulled the bill. One of the things Hoeven continues to say is the Senate bill is step one in a process. However, if the House is actively engaging in the Senate process to avoid a conference committee then the process is already tarnished, and the public’s voice diminished. If the Senate passes a bill and the House simply adopts that same bill, all that is left is President Trump’s signature. Do you think Trump is eager for a legislative victory? Of course he is, and like Cramer, he’ll put his name to whatever is placed in front of him. Hoeven should stand up for the process he is telling the public about.

Senator Heitkamp is opposed to both the House and Senate versions, but not opposed to working together to pass improvements. She demonstrated that yesterday and was shut down by her Republican colleagues. Heitkamp, much like the general public, is being kept from the negotiating table due to heightened partisanship in Washington D.C.

This is all being done right now as we talk about President Trump’s disgusting tweets about a TV personality. Republicans are refusing an open debate and refusing to work with willing Democrats for the betterment of the American public. This process and uncertainty of what is in your health coverage’s future should outrage you. Don’t lose sight of what’s at stake.

Tyler Axness
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