Trumpcare "is a Republican welfare entitlement”: Conservatives rip Obamacare replacement bill

Right-wing groups have already organized protests on Capitol Hill against the bill backed by Trump and Paul Ryan

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published March 7, 2017 8:30PM (EST)

 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Despite what President Donald Trump tweeted about the "wonderful new Healthcare Bill" released by Republicans in the House of Representatives Monday evening, enough Republican Senators have already come out against the draconian overhaul of the Affordable Care Act that this version of "Trumpcare" is virtually dead on arrival. Things look so bad for Republicans' plans to repeal what they derisively refer to as Obamacare that the Tea Party Patriots have even slammed the bill

After seven years of whining that Democrats rammed through Obamacare without reading and publicly debating the legislation, the two  replacement bills introduced by House Republicans Monday night are scheduled for votes in the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees Wednesday -- even though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet completed its analysis of the plans' cost and effect on health insurance coverage.

The two measures  dismantle the core aspects of the ACA, including its subsidies to help people buy coverage, its expansion of Medicaid, its taxes and mandates for people to have insurance. House Republicans' plans to restructure Medicaid into a block grant program that caps payments to states based on the number of enrollees was such a nonstarter that four Republican senators wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announcing that they would not support the bill hours before its release Monday.

"The House does not meet the test of stability for individuals currently enrolled in the program and we will not support a plan that does not include stability for Medicaid expansion populations or flexibility for states,” Republican senators Rob Portman of Ohio, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia wrote.

Republicans only have a 52-48 majority in the Senate, so the loss of four votes would doom any repeal effort. “It will not pass,” Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul declared of the bill on Fox News Tuesday. “We should be stopping mandates, taxes and entitlements not keeping them.”

Even more moderate members are expressing concerns over the House plan.

"What I don't like is, it may not be a plan that gets a majority votes and lets us move on," Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of Senate leadership, said during a radio interview on KMBZ. "We can't stay where we are with the plan we've got now," Blunt admitted in comments first reported by CNN.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the plans simply bring whatever the House passes to a vote on the Senate floor before a recess scheduled for next month, instead of having the relevant committees debate the measure. The measure has already been endorsed by the Trump administration.

“This is exactly the type of back-room dealing and rushed process that we criticized Democrats for," Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee complained:

Over in the House, the GOP's plan isn't being greeted any better by hardline conservative members. House Republicans have been running a television ad for most of the year that assures the public their plan "provides peace of mind to people with preexisting conditions without disrupting existing coverage.”

But Rep. Jim Jordan, of Ohio, one of the founders of the House Freedom Caucus, told Politico Monday night, “This is Obamacare by a different form.”

Earlier on Monday, another conservative member of the Freedom Caucus, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, called the leadership bill "Obamacare 2.0":

“This is a Republican welfare entitlement,” a memo from RSC policy staffers published by Politico read. “Writing checks to individuals to purchase insurance is, in principle, Obamacare. It does allow more choices for individuals, and is more patient-centered, but is fundamentally grounded on the idea that the federal government should fund insurance purchases.”

The three dozen members of House Freedom Caucus can sink the bill before it even makes it to the Senate. And that is precisely the goal of outside conservative advocacy groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, which hosted a rally on Capitol Hill Tuesday against the Republican plan.

“This is ObamaCare-lite,” said Jason Pye of another conservative group, Freedom Works, funded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. “It creates a new entitlement through the refundable tax credits. It allows insurance companies to assess a 30 percent penalty on those who don’t keep continuous coverage for 63 days, which is an individual mandate by another name,” Pye said.

“In many ways, the House Republican proposal released last night not only accepts the flawed progressive premises of Obamacare but expands upon them," the conservative Heritage Foundation said in a statement denouncing Ryan's plan.

Grover Norquist's Club for Growth even dubbed the plan "RyanCare."

The three conservative outside groups, the influential organizations behind the 2013 government shutdown over Obamacare, have launched a multi-million dollar nationwide campaign to pressure Republican lawmakers to not support the House GOP plan backed by Trump.

Even Maine's Republican Governor has already slammed the Trump-backed bill.

“Right now, I am very, very discouraged and disappointed with what the House Republicans are introducing,” Maine Gov. Paul LePage told the “George Hale and Ric Tyler Show” on WMOV radio in Maine on Monday, CNN reported.

“Basically, it’s not much better than – in fact, I don’t know,” LePage added. "They haven’t scored it yet, so we don’t know what the cost is, but based on what I see and I’m reading and what has happened here in Maine over the last 15 years, I don’t think it’s an improvement.”

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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