The first man to sue the federal government over the Affordable Care Act says Republicans are breaking their campaign promises to repeal the health care law and are instead abandoning free market principles with legislation that will make health care even worse and let the Democrats off the hook for the blame.
Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli III launched the first constitutional challenge to the law, widely known as Obamacare, in 2010. His efforts, along with others, ultimately ended in a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision that saved President Obama’s most significant domestic policy.
Late Monday, House Republicans unveiled the text of the American Health Care Act and promoted as a means of getting Washington out of health care, reducing costs and regulations and setting the stage for market-based reforms.
But Cuccinelli says the bill is nothing more than a GOP version of Obamacare.
“This is a sloppy Democrat bill. The people who call this Obamacare-lite are wrong. It’s not lite. It’s just a Republican form. This is a really terrible piece of legislation on its own merits. It’s even worse when you realize this is what’s supposed to pass for keeping their promise to actually repeal Obamacare,” said Cuccinelli.
He says any members trying to keep their promise to repeal the law have to vote against it.
“The problem for conservatives is if it doesn’t really mean actually getting rid of Obamacare and all of the worst features of it, then it should be voted against,” he said.
“Otherwise, it’s an adoption by the Republicans of all the worst elements of Obamacare. They’re going to own the consequences. They’re going to own those price increases and health insurance increases, which will keep happening,” said Cuccinelli.
Cuccinelli says it will be up to congressional Republicans to get this right because President Trump has yet to wade into many specifics.
“Whatever bill gets to the president’s desk, he’s going to sign it. He was very unspecific in the campaign. They’ve been very unspecific in the last week or two. Clearly, they just want to check this box and ‘get it done,’ whatever that means,” said Cuccinelli.
Republicans ran on repealing Obamacare in the past four election cycles. The issue was largely responsible for the GOP takeover of the House of Representatives in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. Cuccinelli says the promise resonated with voters, so it makes no sense to abandon that mission now.
“They’re all running around, at least leadership is, afraid that they’ll upset somebody. Well, I’ve got news for you. People are already upset, and it isn’t a question of whether people are upset after you do whatever you’re going to do. If that’s all you care about, what will they be more upset about: doing what you said you would or going in another direction?” said Cuccinelli.
“If you go in another direction to appease a constituency you didn’t rely on to get elected, what you’ve succeeded in doing is ticking everyone off. That’s the direction Republicans are headed right now,” Cuccinelli.
But Cuccinelli goes a step farther. He says Republicans are really abandoning a full repeal because they do not actually want a market-based health care system.
“They don’t want the regulations to go away. That’s their dirty little secret. They don’t want market-based health care. They want big government control, even though someday it’s all going to come crashing down just because of how bankrupt it will all be,” said Cuccinelli.
He says GOP leaders have gotten comfortable turning to government to address problems.
“Let’s take (House Speaker) Paul Ryan for instance. Paul Ryan has never done anything in his adult life except be in government. It’s his solution to every perceived problem. He doesn’t rely on the market. He doesn’t trust the one force in the history of the world that has raised more people up out of poverty than any other, and that’s free market capitalism,” said Cuccinelli.
So what does Cuccinelli specifically see s the biggest problems with the GOP bill?
“There were 24 major regulations with Obamacare. Under Ryancare, 22 and a half of those stay in place. And of course we get blessed with a brand new entitlement. I don’t know if anybody in the Republican leadership noticed, but we are bankrupt. They do nothing really to resolve that problem,” said Cuccinelli.
“They make no move toward a market-based approach to health care. There’s no expansion of freedom and there’s no reason for people to want to become a doctor any more than under Obamacare,” he added
Supporters of the GOP point out that this legislation needs to start the reform process because it can pass through reconciliation, meaning a simple majority in both chambers can get the job done. They also suggest Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price can tackle most of the regulations unilaterally. Then, they say market-based ideas can come in later legislation.
Cuccinelli isn’t buying it.
“I could swallow [all of that] a whole lot more easily if the first bill was a repeal bill. So if you want us to trust you, then you do what you said you were going to do. Is that really too much to ask? Just do what you’ve been promising for seven years,” said Cuccinelli.
“Don’t put it on Tom Price to get rid of the regulations. You do it in the legislation. You do it as part of the vote. It’s what repealing means,” said Cuccinelli.
Cuccinelli says Republicans had no problem passing a full repeal in 2015 so there’s no good reason not to pass it again.
“All of them have voted on that bill. Were they lying then when they voted on it? It sure seems like it now. Why not just pass a true repeal again?” he said.
“They were loudly speechifying back then. Now they’re using scare tactics to say, ‘Those of you people who want to hold us up for this repeal bill are for Obamacare,” said Cuccinelli.
“That is the worst kind of ducking of a debate on the substance of an important, important issue to every family in America. And it’s a dodge on their campaign promises. They’re all breaking their promises and making liars out of themselves,” said Cuccinelli.