Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is making a cynical gamble that voter antipathy toward Congress will allow Republicans to pass an unpopular health care bill in secrecy without facing electoral consequences.
Some GOP senators have complained that McConnell is rushing the revised bill to a vote without sharing its contents or debating them in public, but his gamble appears like it will pay off, reported Politico.
McConnell expects to hold a vote after the bill is scored by the Congressional Budget Office, likely next week, which The Hill reported will put pressure on both centrist and conservative Republicans to back Obamacare repeal — an issue Republicans have campaigned on since the law was passed.
House Republicans barely got their own version of Obamacare passed, which President Donald Trump celebrated as if the bill were law, and GOP senators have debated their revised version during closed-door lunches and small-group meetings.
The actual bill is being written by McConnell and his staff.
“The leader is really writing this bill,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). “I mean, we can say the Finance Committee is. We can say the Budget Committee is. We can say the HELP Committee is. But the leader’s office is really writing the bill.”
McConnell is banking on some broad combination of voter anger and apathy to shield Republicans from political consequences.
The House overhaul of Obamacare was deeply unpopular, and polls show similar attitudes toward Senate GOP efforts — but McConnell is betting that voters who already think Congress is broken won’t punish them for passing health care reform quickly and with no public debate.
“At the end of the day, you’re judged by what you get,” said one GOP senator. “At the end of the day, they’re not going to be critical of how we got there.”
McConnell and other GOP senators argue that they’ve publicly debated Obamacare since before its 2010 passage, so there’s little need to reveal details of their repeal plan before the Senate vote.
“There’s been all this talk about having hearings,” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) told Politico. “My God, I went through how many hours of hearings?”
Democrats have complained that they’ve been left out of the process, but White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that they signaled ahead of the House debate that they would not back any legislation that repealed the Affordable Care Act.
“No Democrat wanted to touch this, no Democrat would be part of an effort to repeal Obamacare,” Spicer said. “Let’s not mistake ourselves about how they wanted to approach this thing.”
The majority leader can afford only two defections, and some Senate Republicans appear nervous about the vote — but there’s little indication they won’t back McConnell’s bill when he brings it to a vote.
“I’ve always said I would’ve preferred a more open process,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) told Politico. “But if you just wait and say, ‘Oh, we want an open process,’ then you never get that. So at some point you’ve got to play the cards dealt to you.”