As Republican senators engage with voters during the current recess, they are confronting a challenge that is likely to impact their political futures.
Under the GOP’s new healthcare legislation, average premiums for a midlevel insurance plan would rise by 20 percent next January—prior to the 2018 midterm elections.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of premiums would decline in later years, in part due to the offering of less-comprehensive plans.
As leaders work to construct a bill they can bring to the floor when Congress returns to Washington, some Republicans have privately called their situation a Catch-22—trying to pass a bill and not passing legislation that would cause them political peril.
The Republicans’ conundrum is similar to that of the Democrats seven years ago. Democrats were torn between passing unpopular legislation not long before a new president’s midterm elections, or failing to keep a longtime promise after winning control of Congress and the White House.
“Democrats were a lot smarter because they didn’t have anything take effect until after the election,” said Rep. Mark Amodei (R., Nev.), referring to the provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
David Bozell, president of ForAmerica, a grassroots conservative group that opposes the Senate bill, said, “Tasked with honoring a promise seven years in the making, Republican leaders have instead put their caucus in a very big bind going into the midterm elections.”
Although many Democrats view passage of the ACA as a historic achievement, they sustained a massive blow in the 2010 midterms from which they arguably have not recovered.
The Wall Street Journal reported that “The fate of Republican healthcare efforts now may hinge on whether GOP leaders can persuade enough Republican senators that forging ahead is their best political bet. Like Democratic leaders in 2010, Republican leaders today are telling their members it is better to pass an imperfect, unpopular bill than to renege on such a big pledge.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) said that if Republicans attempt to blame Democrats for the healthcare crisis, the accusation will not stick “because they’re the ruling party right now, and they’ve taken responsibility for health care. They have cobbled together such an ugly piece of legislation that they now have bad choices and worse choices.”
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