Donald Trump has just accomplished an extremely difficult task. Over the past few days he has made moves that have united the Democratic Party.
Every single Democrat in Congress was outraged that Trump had his hand-picked attorney general write a brief summary of Bob Mueller’s 22 month investigation that allowed the president to claim “complete exoneration.”
And every single Democrat in Congress was shocked when they found out that Trump is now trying to completely destroy the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
Democrats had been struggling to find unity, but now they are completely united as they try to move past the Russia investigation and position themselves to win the White House and take control of Congress in 2020.
After Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) asked a federal appeals court to strike down Obamacare, the president claimed that the GOP was the “party of health care.” But what voters remember is how the GOP tried to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a much inferior program.
Latest reports from Washington this morning indicate that Democrats are happy yet confused about Trump’s efforts to make healthcare a prime GOP talking point as they head into next year’s election.
His moves might help Trump rally his conservative base but according to the Associated Press (AP) “ the push also poured political kerosene on an issue that many Democrats credit with powering their midterm election victories in November.”
Voters Care About Healthcare More Than Any Other Issue
All the Democrats in Congress, along with those running for president, are saying that voters don’t care about the Mueller investigation very much but are passionate about health care.
In short, it is an issue that resonates with voters more than any other.
“This is something that Americans care deeply about,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a 2020 candidate. “I may not have been asked about the Mueller report at town hall meetings, but I was sure asked about health care.”
The AP reporting shows that Democrats are thrilled to shift the discussion in Washington from Mueller to health care.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris of California has already turned Trump’s new attack on Obamacare into a powerful election issue.
Democrats Are Already Focused on Healthcare
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Trump administration’s court filing allowed Democrats to turn the page on Mueller. But she also said they would have been talking about health care no matter what.
“We have been dealing with health care constantly,” the California Democrat said. “The public attention has been on the Mueller report, but we have been focused on health care.”
Another 2020 contender, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, said if Trump “wants to have a fight on health care, it’s a fight we’re willing to have. And it’s a fight he is going to lose.”
Healthcare Helped Democrats Win the Midterms
That confidence is in part because health care was the top issue that helped Democrats win control of the House in last year’s “Blue Wave” election. According to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 115,000 midterm voters nationwide, 40 percent of Democratic voters identified health care as their top issue.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday found 55 percent of Americans support the improvement of the U.S. health care system.
The Supreme Court has twice upheld President Barack Obamacare after Republicans attacked in court. So it’s not likely that Trump’s new DOJ position is likely to hold up on appeal. Plus, nobody knows where the White House plans to focus its new health care efforts — if he did repeal Obamacare there is nothing to replace it with.
Republican Senators Are Unhappy
New reports also indicate that Republican senators up for reelection next year are not happy about the DOJ court filing. They clearly do not want another fight over repealing Obamacare, and fear that it could cause them to lose Senate control in 2020. They also know that any attempt to dismantle Obamacare will fail in Congress.
They also seem desperate to reach a compromise with Pelosi on legislation to lower prescription drug prices, but it’s not clear if they’ll be able to accomplish that this year.
This leaves Republicans with nothing to show voters in the area of healthcare. They will go back to their constituents empty handed as they try to convince them that their party should be in power in Washington.
The latest move is a departure from the administration’s earlier (and very unpopular) stance in a lower court, where it had argued that only federal safeguards for people with pre-existing medical conditions and limits on premiums charged to older, sicker people should be struck down.
Repealing Obamacare Would Be a Disaster
Repeal of Obamacare would leave more than 20 million people uninsured. That includes some 12 million low-income people covered through its Medicaid expansion and some 11 million purchasing subsidized private health insurance through HealthCare.gov and state-run insurance markets.
As they race headlong toward a 2020 disaster, Republicans, according to the AP, are ready to back up the president on his health care positions — at least for now.
Trump is “thinking that’s the issue that defines us as conservatives,” Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., told reporters after the president addressed a closed-door meeting of GOP senators.
The sudden focus on Obamacare came at a time when most Democratic presidential candidates had endorsed a move toward the legislation in Congress known as “Medicare for All.” It’s not clear that this position is popular with the majority of voters, or that it would help them in their 2020 race against Trump.
Now it is likely that they can move away from this controversial position as congressional Democrats instead have to focus on defending Obamacare, which is very popular with voters.
Democrats Now Have the Advantage
Already Pelosi has made a move, and yesterday House Democrats unveiled a new bill that will shore up the Obamacare while also expanding enrollment to millions more people.
The advantage on the healthcare issue has clearly swung to the Democrats.
Andrew Bates, a Democratic spokesman, said:
“For Trump to bring this back up is traumatic, and it shines a real light on what the contrast is going to be between him and whoever the Democratic nominee is.”
As a new day dawns in Washington, Democrats are feeling more unified — and more powerful — than they have all year. Instead of being defeated by William Barr’s letter, they have been energized. And thanks to Donald Trump’s misguided attempts to please his right-wing base of voters, Democrats can now say that they are the one party in Washington that is completely united.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.