Republicans Prove They’re in the Promise-Keeping Business

Donald Trump’s position on Obamacare has been consistent and clear: He wants to repeal and replace the president’s disastrous health care law. But, less famously, his position on universal coverage has also been unmistakeable.

“I would absolutely get rid of Obamacare,” Trump said during the GOP primary, but “I want to keep the [provisions regarding] pre-existing conditions. It’s the modern age, and I think we have to have it.”

Mr. Trump was elected, in no small part because of his forthrightness and his promise to repeal Obamacare. Now that the campaign is over it’s time to turn promises into action. Vice President-elect Mike Pence travelled to Capitol Hill this week to carry that very message.

“We’re going to be in the promise-keeping business,” Pence stated. “The president-elect campaigned all across this country. He gave voice to the frustrations and aspirations of the American people. He laid out an agenda to make America great again, and my message on his behalf today before this Congress and this Senate is that we intend to keep those promises.”

“It will literally begin on day one,” he averred.

For their part, the Republicans in Congress are not sitting idly until the new administration takes its place in the Oval Office. They are actively working on a two-pronged approach that would mix executive action with repeal-and-replace legislation.

“We are working on a series of executive orders that the president-elect will put into effect to ensure that there is an orderly transition, during the period after we repeal Obamacare, to a market-based health care economy,” Vice President elect Mike Pence said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate introduced a joint resolution that instructs the four committees that control health care policy—Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce in the House; and Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in the Senate—to begin drafting legislation that would reduce deficit by at least $1 billion over the next decade. 

Those elements could be crafted into a budget resolution that can pass by a simple majority, which prevents Democrats from filibustering. Other, policy-centric elements of the repeal-and-replace plan would require a 60-vote margin to pass, a figure that will require a degree of bipartisan agreement on a way forward.

“It would be goo that once we repeal Obamacare that we begin the process of building consensus again,” Texas Senator John Cornyn told reporters. “That used to be the way we got things done. Surely, we can do much better than Obamacare and we ought to invite our Democratic colleagues to join with us.” 

That may be a tough task.

In a closed-door meeting with Democrats, the outgoing President reportedly urged them not to “rescue” Republicans by helping them pass replacement measures. 

There is a time and place for principle, but this is not it. Not only have the American people clearly spoken in election after election of their desire to replace Obamacare, they have clearly been hurt by many of its ill-conceived provisions. 

How could anyone not want to fix a system that is heaping double-digit premium hikes onto unwary customers year-after-year? After all, monthly premiums for benchmark silver-level plans soared by an average of 25 percent in the states with federally-run exchanges. How could you not want to find a way to reduce the growth in deductibles, which are increasingly making insurance nothing but a monthly bill? After all, deductibles for the lowest-priced Obamacare plans will average more than $6,000 in 2017 – a figure that few families can afford. And how could you not want Americans to have greater competition in the health insurance marketplace, a necessary precursor to keeping costs down? After all, this year has brought waves of insurer failures and market exits that have left many Americans with only one or two insurers to choose from. 

None of this is to say that Obamacare’s goals weren’t laudable. It’s just to say that using centralized government as a replacement for market forces was inevitably doomed to fail. Why not fix it?

“The answer here is not to ignore the problem in order to keep some failed legacy,” Speaker Paul Ryan said. “The answer here is bold action, solve problems, and bring relief to Americans.” 

And that begins now.