Mean-spirited GOP repeal bill failed!

By Dorothy Inman-Johnson
Special to the Outlook

Thanks to three courageous Republicans_ Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Sen. John McCain (Arizona)_ for joining Senate Democrats in voting “No” on the GOP “Skinny” Repeal Bill that was called a fraud by many of the Republicans who voted for it. For now, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that we still have healthcare, and hope Congress will get on with the business of developing a bipartisan plan to reduce premiums, deductibles, and drug costs under Obamacare. And thanks to the millions of Americans who raised their voices to protest passage of a GOP health plan that would have taken healthcare away from 16 to 20 million of us who currently have coverage under Obamacare (ACA). We should remember that Florida Senator Marco Rubio voted to take away our healthcare.

Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act at any cost before Congress took its August recess, regardless of the number of Americans hurt by their actions. They started last week with a procedural vote that allowed the bill to be introduced on the floor of the Senate for debate, leading to amendments and a vote. Some of us were surprised when Senator McCain flew to Washington after his cancer brain surgery and voted yes to send the bill to the floor. He, however, voted no on several amended versions of the bill meant to win enough conservative votes to pass it. The plans voted down included a particularly mean and misleading bill proposed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz. His proposal would have allowed young, healthy Americans to buy a “cheap” plan that provided almost no paid health benefits; requiring them to pay directly for most of the cost for doctor visits and hospitalization if they became ill. Further, it would have relegated most other Americans to high risk health pools that would have required premiums at least 500percent higher than they are now. There was a large number of Republican defectors whose conscience would not let them vote for a bill this harmful to constituents they would have to face when they returned to their Congressional districts this month.

It was well past 1:00 a.m. when McConnell made his final attempt to get something passed, after pay offs to some senators, changes that made the bill even more unacceptable, arm twisting and threats by the President with the introduction of their “Skinny repeal bill. Vice President Pence was on hand to break the tie if the vote was 50-50, with Murkowski and Collins announced Republican votes against and all Senate Democrats opposing it. McConnell could only lose one more vote. That’s when the heavy lobbying of McCain began; but McCain kept his cards close to his chest and kept Republicans and Democrats in suspense. When he finally cast his no vote, putting the bill’s passage out of reach, there was an audible sigh of relief and muffled applause from Democrats, and disappointed or angry silence from Republicans.

In his comments after the vote, a visibly upset McConnell turned his back to Democrats while blaming them for the bill’s defeat; though both houses of Congress and the White House are controlled by Republicans. They had no one to blame except themselves. They had drafted their bill in secret behind closed doors, and refused to disclose any information about the bill to Democrats until it was being debated on the floor in preparation for a vote. Not only did they leave their democratic colleagues in the dark, but they refused to hold a single public hearing on their plans, though polls showed only 12 to 17percent of Americans supported their efforts to repeal Obamacare. When a delay was requested by Sen. Murray to allow Democrats an opportunity to read the bill on which they were expected to debate and vote, she was told she had better read it while the debate went forward. This was clearly a horrible example of the way the nation’s business should be conducted. Senate Republicans, in the end, allowed their own arrogance and lack of concern for the well being of their constituents to cause a well-deserved loss.

The Congress now has a chance to put politics aside and work in a bipartisan manner on strategies to improve ACA by reducing costs, while leaving all essential benefits, coverage for pre-existing conditions, Medicaid, and health subsidies intact. Americans were the winners with the defeat of the GOP Repeal of Obamacare. We should now insist on adding a public option and more non-profit HMOs to continue the winning streak.

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