So What Are The Senate’s Aspirations for the People?

Will the Senate be a chamber of heroism today…or not?

Let’s turn back the clock a bit, first. There was a piece of legislation, observed the President several years ago, that would “set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see.”

“Today, we are affirming that essential truth every generation is called to rediscover for itself that we are not a nation that scales back its aspirations,” President Barack Obama said in March, 2010, as he and supporters celebrated the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Are we a nation that turns back its aspirations, or is this what this GOP led Senate (and House for that matter) wants to do?

Today, Sen. Mitch McConnell may try to cobble together enough procedural votes as a first tally whether it would have enough members to actually then vote on healthcare reform bills. President Trump desperately wants that, but so many lawmakers are pretty lukewarm, at best. There is even confusion among Republicans about exactly what they may be voting on. Republicans want to repeal. Or repeal and replace Obamacare with the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). Or repeal and just let it stay that way until they find something better. Or… you see what I mean.

There is a dramatic build-up to be sure, as Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona is expected to return from his recent brain tumor diagnosis for a vote, saying last night he wants to continue work on important matters, including healthcare. The Republicans are counting the numbers to determine whether they move forward, or if they can. Getting 50 votes may be tough. Previously, three women Senators have courageously been vocal critics of the legislation. In the meantime, the Congressional Budget Office has said millions of people could lose healthcare if BCRA is approved, or if Congress lets Obamacare go without replacing it. A ticklish situation.

And here, as the Republicans gather, the idea of not really knowing what they are voting on not only seems bizarre but is certainly contrary to their oath. As the MaddowBlog noted, “This isn’t how legislating in the United States is supposed to work on any issue, but it’s especially indefensible when dealing with life or death policymaking.”

A friend of mine, as he was throwing out the trash yesterday, said: “Why can’t Republicans and Democrats come together, do whatever is needed to fix Obamacare. Does Trump even know what he’s talking about?”

When you think of the eloquence of Obama, contrast that with Trump, railing in front of families who have had trouble getting coverage because of Obamacare. Trump criticized GOP Senators who oppose the bill, adding with flourish: “Obamacare is death. That’s the one that’s death.”

“Americans desperately need relief,” the White House said in a statement earlier yesterday. “Congress needs to step up and do their job, by repealing and replacing Obamacare. The legislation working its way through Congress right now provides the choice and control people want, the affordability they need, and the quality they deserve in healthcare?”

Not much elaboration to the word “want.” Simply, Americans don’t like the bills that Congress is moving forward to replace Obamacare. A Monmouth University poll said that only 27 percent of Americans approve the Senate health care reform bill introduced last week while 56 percent disapprove. In an understatement, the university pollster said: “There are signs that Republicans may be losing confidence in how this issue is being handled by their party’s leadership…the Congress as a whole as well as its partisan leadership receive generally negative reviews.”

Among those opponents to the Senate bills to repeal or repeal and replace Obamacare, is the American Medical Association. In a July 21 letter to McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, James L. Madara, MD, CEO an Executive Vice President of the AMA, said the Senate legislation lacking in these areas:

  • Efforts to ensure that those currently covered do not become uninsured
  • Preservation of key insurance market reforms and efforts to stabilize and strengthen the individual insurance market, “ensuring that low and moderate income families are able to secure affordable and meaningful coverage”
  • Provision (for) adequate funding for Medicaid and other safety net programs.

“Unfortunately neither the proposed ‘Better Care Reconciliation Act” (BCRA) nor the “Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act” (ORRA) adequately addresses these key concerns,” wrote Madara. “Each bill results in millions more Americans without health insurance, weakened markets, less access to affordable coverage and care, and the undermining of funding for state Medicaid payments.”

I think about my friend mulling the Congressional action. Why can’t the Republicans and Democrats work out an agreement?

“Republicans in the Senate could work together with Democrats to find at last a short-term bipartisan solution. Democrats have indicated a willingness to work with them, wrote Tim Jost, an emeritus professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law who blogs for Health Affairs. “There is wide public support for bipartisan reform. And there are short term fixes that could be adopted on a bipartisan basis.”

“It is time to set aside partisanship, to fix immediate problems in insurance markets, and to begin a national debate on what we want our health care system to look like going forward.”

Does the Senate have the courage to do that? – Joe Cantlupe

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