Republicans Think They Can Win Back The House By Focusing On The Deficit And Health Care
Despite having utterly mishandled both areas when they actually held power, Republicans think they can win back the House of Representatives by focusing on the budget deficit and health care reform.
Bloomberg News is reporting that House Republicans seeking to win back a majority that they lost in the 2018 midterm elections plan to run on reducing spending and the budget deficit:
House Republicans plan to run on tried-and-true issues in 2020: repealing Obamacare and reducing the national debt, even though the GOP fell short of both goals the last time the party had full control of Washington.
“The first thing we would do is make sure our debt is taken care of,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters during a meeting of party members in Baltimore to work on their election-year agenda.
This week, the annual budget deficit reached $1 trillion under President Donald Trump’s watch. When Republicans controlled the House, Senate and White House last year, they enacted tax cuts estimated to add $1.5 trillion in deficits over 10 years.
Republicans plan to reduce the debt by repealing Obamacare, McCarthy said, a day after Democratic presidential candidates vowed to greatly expand government’s role in health care during their third debate.
Democrats view health care and the defense of Obamacare as the key issue that sealed their takeover of the House in the 2018 election.
In 2017, “no” votes by GOP Senators John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski blocked Republicans’ attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“We were one vote short of entitlement reform. We will have the opportunity with a Republican Senate and President Trump to change it once and for all and make America stronger,” McCarthy said Friday.
“We want to protect pre-existing conditions. We want to lower the cost of health care while raising quality overall,” McCarthy said. “Democrats are offering Medicare for All. They want to end health care” for millions of Americans who currently have coverage.
The irony and cynicism in all of this couldn’t be more apparent. As I noted just last week, the Federal Budget Deficit will be more than a trillion dollars for the first time since the years immediately after the Great Recession. Crossing this line hardly comes as a surprise given the fact we’ve been on this course since Republicans took control of the House, Senate, and Presidency after the 2016 election. When the final budget deal for Fiscal Year 2019 was put forward in mid-February of last year, for example, it included massive spending increases in almost every budget category and busted through the controls that had been put in place during the Obama Administration. As The New York Times noted at the time, this effectively means that Republicans have learned to love the deficits and debt they once claimed to abhor. This is the same Republican Party, which had spent the Obama years lecturing Washington about spending and deficits. In the Trump Era. that same party has become the party of deficits and debt. By April of last year, the Congressional Budget Office had officially forecast that we’d be seeing trillion dollars deficits by the end of Fiscal Year 2019 and just a few months later, the national debt crossed a new benchmark and was north of $21 trillion. According to the latest figures, the national debt, which stood at $19.9 trillion on the day President Trump took office, now stands at $22.6 trillion. (Source)
The situation is much the same when it comes to health care reform, an area in which the President and his party utterly failed very early in the Trump Administration. It began when the House of Representatives, after some difficulties in March of last year, passed the American Health Care Act with barely a vote to spare. At that point, the battle shifted to the Senate, which spent three months trying to pass a bill with even just 51 votes (or 50 votes plus the Vice-President’s tie-breaking vote.) From the start it was clear that the House bill had no chance of passing in the Senate, so Senate Republicans put forward their alternative, the Better Care Reconciliation Act. As with the AHCA, the BCRA was drafted behind closed doors without either committee hearings or public debate, and of course no input from Democrats. Almost immediately, the BCRA ran into roadblocks. First, Mitch McConnell’s plan to vote on the bill before the July 4th recess collapsed when the Congressional Budget Office released a devasting score for the bill. After that happened, the BCRA quickly lost support and was pulled from the floor before voting began. After the recess, Senate Republicans put forward a revised plan that also received a bad CBO score and quickly came under fire. When it became obvious that this bill would also fail to get even the fifty votes required to pass the bill, McConnell proposed yet another plan that would repeal the Affordable Care Act without actually replacing it with anything, but that plan ended up falling apart after only eighteen hours. Undaunted, the Senate still refused to give up and decided to go forward even though it was unclear which direction they were heading. Ultimately, the Senate ended up voting on something they called “Skinny Repeal,” which repealed only parts of the PPACA such as the individual and employer mandates and some other regulations. Bizarrely, though, even Senators who voted for that bill said they never intended for it to become law. Instead, they said it would be the basis to force a conference committee with the House in an effort to put together a bill that could get through both bodies. That effort, though, came to an end when McCain, who had just been diagnosed with cancer, returned to the Senate to deliver a late-night thumbs down that sealed the bill’s fate. Finally, after first declaring that there would be no more efforts to pass a health care bill, Senate Republicans made one last effort with a bill proposed by Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, but that too failed to pass even under that bodies relaxed reconciliation rules which avoid the need for a sixty-vote majority in order to invoke cloture and pass a bill. Since then, the Republicans have basically given up on any effort to pass a health care reform bill.
At the same time, Republicans at the state level have been involved in litigation designed to undermine the Affordable Care Act that could serve to hurt them at the ballot box next year. The Trump Administration has joined in that litigation by declining to defend the law in court. In December of last year, a Federal District Court Judge sided with the states and struck the law own and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel hearing the appeal in July appeared skeptical of the Constitutionality of the law without the viability of the mandate tax penalty to support it. As I noted shortly thereafter, a ruling from the Court of Appeals striking down the law could end up backfiring on Republicans politically given the renewed popularity of the law generally and of individual provisions such as the mandate for coverage of pre-existing conditions.
Given this history on both of these issues, the fact that House Republicans believe that they can run a credible campaign to regain the House of Representatives is laughably absurd. They have revealed by their own actions, and failures to act, that they cannot credibly deliver in either of these areas. The fact that they’d base their campaign on them is nothing short of pure chutzpah.