Nobody told House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) that the Republican Party was joking.
He apparently read the GOP’s 2012 “Growth and Opportunity Project” autopsy’s recommendations and thought Republicans were actually trying to act as if they care about people who can’t afford lobbyists for their beach house. So the congressman went to work.
Cantor came up with a bill that at least appeared to help those Americans who have been denied by insurers because of pre-existing conditions and weren’t being helped by Obamacare. He even gave it one of those names that you can’t vote against without shaming everyone in your gene pool — The Helping Sick Americans Now Act.
The response from the conservative base was as predictable as it was loud. Fix Obamacare? Accept the results of the 2012 election? Appear willing to help extremely sick people? Oh, hell no.
The right-wing blog Red State decided that for the very first time they would “score” a vote.
“Vote no or you’ll get on our scorecard as someone who voted to help fix Obamacare and save it,” wrote Red State’s L.Ron Hubbard-figure Erick Erickson — one of the chief proponents of using the debt limit as a hostage to demand cuts, a gambit that cost America as much as $18.9 billion.
Erickson’s bluster was matched by the Heritage Foundation and the walking embodiment of the GOP’s “only worry about primaries” strategy, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). And before the bill could be voted on and that vote “scored,” the Republican leadership pulled the bill.
It’s become the consensus in Washington that there’s a Civil War going in the House Republican caucus. Politico‘s Jake Sherman explains:
In one camp are stiff ideologues who didn’t extract any lesson from Mitt Romney’s loss and are only looking to slash spending and defund President Barack Obama’s health care law at every turn. In the other are lawmakers who are aligned with Cantor, who is almost singularly driving an agenda which is zeroed in on family issues.
And who’s winning?
On Friday, Cantor sent a memo to House Republicans promising they would vote to repeal Obamacare for the 37th time.
Why a 37th vote to demonstrate that you have no actual power to repeal Obamacare? Apparently some Republicans need to lose their repealing Obamacare “virginity.”
“If you’re a freshman, the guys who’ve been up here the last year — we can go home and say, ‘Listen, we voted 36 different times to repeal or replace Obamacare.’ — tell me what the new guys are supposed to say,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) explained recently in a talk at the Heritage Foundation. “We haven’t had a repeal or replace vote this year.”
Republicans may rightly sense that we’re actually coming to the end of the golden age of pretending to repeal Obamacare.
The bill’s favorable ratings are at lows, as Republicans seek to blame the law for everything that has ever gone wrong with medical care. The greatest indication of the success of the GOP’s Obamacare misinformation campaign is that about 4 out of 10 Americans aren’t even sure if it’s really law.
Eric Cantor likely realizes that now is the time to get those freshmen de-virginized, before Americans actually know what’s in the law.
The government has been holding off on educating about the law too far ahead of its 2014 rollout date, leaving a vacuum that Republicans have filled with death panels and stories about Papa John’s cutting back its work force.
But that will change as open enrollment for the law begins in October, preceded by a summer-long campaign to educate — or correct Republican misinformation — about the law.
Republicans rant that Obamacare is driving costs up. But they don’t mention that for the first time, thanks to the law, insurance companies have to justify increases. Insurers must also refund customers’ money if they don’t use 80-85 percent of it for actual care. More than $1 billion in refunds have already been sent out.
Republicans say that the law may drive prices up for those — mostly upper-income — Americans who will be moved into higher quality plans. But they never explain — and Democrats are lax to point out — that all Americans who earn up to $45,960 for an individual or $94,200 for a family of four will receive subsidies to help pay their health insurance.
That’s right, as many as 26 million Americans will pay less for health insurance thanks to the law. And these subsidies will be mostly paid for by a small tax on those earning over $250,000. (SPOILER: This the real reason conservatives hate Obamacare. It taxes the rich to help the middle class pay for health care.)
Republicans rant about employers not hiring because of the law but they never mention that research shows the costs will likely only be higher for mid-sized businesses who didn’t previously offer coverage, effectively passing their health insurance costs on to the public.
The reality is that with tens of millions new health care customers, countless middle-class jobs will be created.
And Republicans never point out that what they’re doing when they vote to repeal Obamacare is voting to keep a system where 26,000–45,000 Americans die every year for lack of insurance. They’re voting to keep paying for each other’s health care in the dumbest possible way — emergency rooms. They’re voting to allow insurers to deny coverage to kids and adults with pre-existing conditions. They’re voting for a return to a system where your insurer can invent some reason to drop you when you get sick.
What could the House GOP be doing instead of wasting millions pretending to repeal Obamacare? They could do something they’ve never done before: create jobs. Or they could at least stop killing 750,000 jobs by simply voting once to repeal the sequester.
But then it might seem as if they cared. And why would they want to do that?
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin