May 09, 2017
No one's ever accused the Senate of efficiency -- and the Obamacare repeal is no exception. After watching the House sprint through the American Health Care Act, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is keeping his chamber under the speed limit for what he warns will be a long debate. "This process will not be quick or simple or easy," he warned. Like House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the Majority Leader has a difficult tightrope to walk in a party with very different views on health care. That may explain, as several point out, why the Senate is ditching the House's 132-page plan and starting from scratch.
"Thanks, but no thanks" seemed to be the message from the upper chamber, where everyone expects a different plan to emerge. Striking a balance that pleases the GOP's moderates and conservatives will take some maneuvering, especially in a party that can only afford to lose two votes on whatever bill it concocts. "We're going to draft our own bill, and I'm convinced that we're going to take the time to do it right," McConnell said this week. Obviously, no one envies GOP leaders in their quest to piece together a fragile consensus on one-sixth of America's economy -- but there are significant portions of the House bill that are non-negotiable.
For starters, the greatest deliberative body had better be deliberate about defunding Planned Parenthood. Whatever differences the Senate may have with Speaker Ryan's plan, McConnell knows that if a bill comes back to the House without striking 86 percent of the abortion giant's taxpayer funding, the Obamacare repeal will never pass Congress. As I told the Washington Times, the Majority Leader is a smart man. He understands what's at stake. And while Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) continues to gripe about the House's decision to end the forced partnership between taxpayers and Planned Parenthood, there are far more members who would vote against the bill if it didn't.
Collins, who insists on putting an "R" after her name while voting like anything but, is hoping her noisy opposition will sink the text. "It's not the only issue in this huge bill," she told ABC, "but I certainly think that it's not fair, and it is a mistake to defund Planned Parenthood." Considering the long list of the group's wrongdoing, the only mistake Congress has made is continuing to fund them in the face of so much criminal evidence! Still, Collins insists on mischaracterizing the issue, telling the network, "I don't think that low-income women should be denied their choice of health care providers for family planning, cancer screenings, and [other] care."
Fortunately for Collins and millions of other women (low-income and otherwise), the House more than compensated for the loss of Planned Parenthood, adding an additional $200 million to the $235 million already in the 2015 reconciliation bill for community health centers. (Which, oh-by-the-way, outnumber Cecile Richards's clinics 20-to-one and serve eight times more women -- without the baggage of performing abortions or the scandal of selling baby body parts.)
The bottom line is this: Anything the Senate does to substantially change the pro-life provisions of the bill will kill it. With so little margin to work with, the Senate working group would be wise to tell Collins and anyone else who wants to line the pockets of a group accused of fraud, Medicaid overbilling, carving up unborn children for profit, killing babies born alive, falsifying medical information, violating safety standards, encouraging prostitution and sex trafficking, and medical malpractice to take a hike. If Susan Collins wants to be responsible for keeping Obamacare afloat, she belongs with the only other people who think that's a worthy goal: the Democratic Party.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.