The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.
By now most Senate Republicans along with the general public have lost track of how many versions of the Better Care Reconciliation Act have been discussed since it was first made public after being drafted by thirteen men behind closed doors. The only differences seem to be in how stunningly reprehensible the bill is. Some moderate senators are saying the cuts to Medicaid are too steep while conservatives on the far-right say it does not repeal enough of Obamacare to fulfill their promise.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a vote this week on the health care bill, but has not yet indicated which version of this bill would be put forward or it if it would be straight repeal or some new compromise of repeal-and-replace.
Senator McConnell must also contend with the parliamentary requirement of 60 votes to repeal major provisions of Obamacare including the defunding of Planned Parenthood, abortion restrictions, and the elimination of essential health benefits. Many Republicans in Congress campaigned on these issues, so a bill that does not include these is likely going to be a nonstarter.
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said last Thursday, “I don’t even know what we’re proceeding to next week.” Senator Collins, a moderate, has been outspoken in recent weeks about her opposition to the Senate version of the health care bill not only because of its callous treatment of the vulnerable but because of the entire process.
“To do that without holding a single hearing on what the implications would be for some of our most vulnerable citizens, for our rural hospitals, for our nursing homes is not an approach I can support,” Collins said speaking of any version of the bill that includes huge cuts to Medicaid.
Repealing and replacing Obamacare has been a Republican goal since the bill passed in March of 2010. It has been a feature in every election cycle since. Republicans in Congress took dozens of show votes for repealing President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation, but knew they would never actually have to have a plan. For seven years they trolled the president and the country with lies and disingenuous promises.
Nevertheless, since the repeal efforts began in earnest in early January with votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act through the reconciliation process, the resistance has been strong. Over the past seven months it has gained momentum at town halls and marches across the country. Senators’ offices have been flooded with concerned citizens showing up and calling in. And as the healthcare bill hangs in the balance, tipping towards defeat, Invisible groups in 40 states erupted in protests last Friday telling their Senators to Kill the Bill.
It is critical to keep the pressure on Senators to defeat whatever repeal-and-replace measure is put before them even as it looks like this reprehensible bill is already in a death spiral. Nothing is final until the votes are cast. Tens of millions of people’s lives are on the line and one-sixth of the country’s economy is at stake. This is only the beginning of the devastation for this health care legislation will eventually affect every person through at minimum higher costs for less care.
Every major piece of legislation is fundamentally more than a collection of policy provisions, it is a reflection of the deepest moral values of our country. Every version of the healthcare bill put forward in the House and the Senate this year is morally bankrupt and thus deserves nothing but defeat.
However, even with the defeat of Trumpcare, the health care discussion is not over. Bipartisan work must be done to address problems in the Affordable Care Act to make it better. And the number of people without health insurance is still staggering and unacceptable 28 million. So rather than counting how many millions will lose their health insurance, we need to be counting how many million more will have it until we join the ranks of every other industrialized country and assure it as a fundamental right to every person.
The resistance must also remain strong in its fight for the care and protection of the all vulnerable ones for the legislative attacks on the poor and marginalized will not end with the defeat of Trumpcare, but will continue in budget plans and tax reform discussions.
People of faith and all committed to the common good united by our deepest shared moral values in the fight to protect our democracy and care for our neighbor and planet be encouraged by these words from the Apostle Paul to the church in Galatia: “Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all.