Senate Republican leaders are not offering an specifics on their health care reform bill but reports of critical concessions in at least three major areas leave skeptical conservatives worried that years worth of Obamacare repeal promises are wilting before our eyes.
In recent weeks, reports have described the difficulty of Republicans in cobbling together 50 or 51 votes to advance an Obamacare overhaul. As a result, leaders are reportedly considering a more generous approach to Medicare expansion, effectively adopting the Obamacare approach to people with pre-existing conditions and, most recently, allowing tax payer funding of Planned Parenthood to continue.
Former Virginia Attorney General and current Senate Conservatives Fund President Ken Cuccinelli says efforts to make everyone happy appear to have taken any meaningful teeth out of the legislation.
“I’m concerned anytime (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell is talking the way he is. A deal to Mitch McConnell to you and me means capitulation,” said Cuccinelli, who was also the 2013 Republican nominee for Virginia governor.
He says if McConnell embraces a badly watered-down bill, he is breaking promises he clearly made while running for re-election in 2014.
“I remember, ‘Root and branch. We’re going to pull it out root and branch,'” said Cuccinelli, mimicking McConnell’s 2014 declaration. “[He ] paid for over 30,000 anti-Obamacare ads in October alone for his re-election in 2014. He apparently had no intention of keeping those promises.”
But it wasn’t just McConnell. Every Republican senator has campaigned on addressing Obamacare, with the vast majority vowing to repeal and replace the 2010 law. What has changed now that the GOP is in a position to do something about it?
“A lot of them lie. That’s the sad truth that is now being brought home to us,” said Cuccinelli, who also has no use for the argument that dealing with Obamacare is far more complex than a simple repeal vote.
“They love to tell us how complicated it is. What that means is, ‘You’re stupid and I’m the smart senator. You don’t know what you’re talking about so you should just adopt my soft, unprincipled position that, oh by the way, is not what I campaigned on,'” said Cuccinelli.
“It’s demeaning to the American people. It’s patronizing. It’s elitist and it’s a lie,” said Cuccinelli.
Rather than try to mollify every critic, Cuccinelli says there’s a much simpler way for lawmakers to proceed – do what they promised voters they would do.
“They didn’t say, ‘We’re going to undo parts of it.’ They didn’t say, ‘This is complicated and I’m going to simplify it.’ They said they were going to repeal it. There was a good article by one of the Fox (News) contributors a little while ago about simply doing what you say you’re going to do.
“Will some people not like it? Yeah, some people will not like it, but you said it’s what you were going to do,” said Cuccinelli.
Cuccinelli points to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial effort to ease the grip of unions on state government as an example of honoring your word in a tough environment.
“We saw the largest protest in the state capital we have ever seen, 100,000 people. They physically shut the place down with their obstruction. Scott Walker and the Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature soldiered on and did what they said they would do,” said Cuccinelli.
He says the voters ultimately rewarded that consistency when opponents were able to put a recall election on the ballot.
“Guess what? The people who had been largely silent, the people of Wisconsin, came back out and returned Scott Walker to office with essentially the same margin as his first election. He got re-elected again three years after that,” said Cuccinelli.
“The moral of the story is even when people disagree with you, they respect it when you keep your word, even when it’s hard,” said Cuccinelli.
While the House has passed a bill, Cuccinelli says it also is not what voters were promised. He says President Trump’s biggest mistake was to let GOP leaders lead the process.
“One of the mistakes…was for the White House to turn this over to (House Speaker) Paul Ryan. What they got was a donor bill. They did not get a repeal bill. That’s what the House leadership does. They caucus with donors,” said Cuccinelli.
Contending that repealing the burdensome regulations in Obamacare is of top priority, Cuccinelli points out that the House bill only address one and a half out of 24 key regulations in the law.
Cuccinelli was the first attorney general in the United States to challenge the Affordable Care Act in court after it was passed into law. He doesn’t understand why Republicans in Washington don’t just vote on a full repeal.
“They ought to put a real repeal bill up and have a vote. If you lose Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, that’s still 50 (votes). And Rand Paul will vote for a real repeal. He just won’t vote for the other junk. Then the vice president can break that tie,” said Cuccinelli.
He also says it’s not out of the question for vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in red states next year to get on board.
Cuccinelli and other conservatives balked at the original version of the House’s American Health Care Act, or AHCA. Most conservatives only got on board after amendments were added to ensure premiums would not increase, even in the short term.
Cuccinelli sees a lot of the same problems emerging in the Senate.
“If we get to an insurance situation instead of a mandate situation, then the bill may be OK. But if you’re having community rating and forcing pre-existing conditions, it’s not insurance any longer. It’s a welfare program, which is what Obamacare is right now.
“Until they move it from a welfare program to insurance, where risk is assessed and priced and the market can determine where people land, then it’s not going to be an acceptable bill,” said Cuccinelli.
And would these concessions impact costs to consumers?
“It isn’t going to lower premiums, critically. All the while, Obamacare is crashing around their ears. It’s amazing. How destroyed does this concept have to be until they reject it. This is classic government. ‘If it’s broke, do more of what you did before,'” said Cuccinelli.
The reported consideration allowing taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood would be designed to assuage Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. Cuccinelli says Murkowski’s stand on this component is particularly galling.
“Lisa Murkoswki has been against funding Planned Parenthood during her campaigns and has viciously fought for it after she’s elected. This is not the first time for Sen. Murkowski to lie to Alaskans about this and to flip back to her pro-abortion position,” said Cuccinelli, asserting no one with that record should be a chairman in a GOP-run Senate.