With the decision by Senate Republicans to kill any chance of full ObamaCare repeal through “reconciliation,” some lawmakers are getting creative — and will stop at nothing to get a clean up or down vote on repeal.
Not deterred by the weak-kneed display in the upper chamber, Rep. Tom Garrett introduced a discharge petition, which overrides previous Obamacare votes and would require the entire Congress to hold a fresh vote on clean Obamacare repeal (without replacement language.)
Texas Rep. Brian Babin supports the discharge petition, telling me Thursday, Aug. 3:
The number one issue when I ran in 2014, was ObamaCare. I’m a healthcare provider myself, in private practice and also in the U.S. Air Force. I ran on the platform of repealing and replacing ObamaCare. Many of my colleagues ran on the exact same platform. ObamaCare is an abject disaster. The premiums have skyrocketed an average of 105 percent across the country. Paying for your ObamaCare policy for working-class Americans now is like making a mortgage payment.
“Usually people have a hard time even using the policy,” he continued. “I think what Tom Garrett is doing is the correct way to go and I’ve asked to be on his discharge petition and I would like to co-sponsor,” Babin remarked on the issue of discharge petitions.
Texas Rep. Randy Weber also supports new approaches to passing clean ObamaCare repeal in unequivocal terms, telling me:
“I do support full repeal and I do support the discharge petition.”
While Babin, Weber and Garrett should be applauded for their efforts, the big “elephant” in the room must be addressed if success is really the goal.
ObamaCare repeal — the signature election issue of Republicans in 2016 — is being sabotaged (wittingly or unwittingly) by Republicans.
Among those vocally opposing discharge petitions as a pathway to repealing ObamaCare are three ranking Texas Republican Congressmen — all honorable men.
Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, told me:
After more than 200 Congressional hearings and more than 80 hours of open debate and deliberation in Committees and on the House floor, House Republicans delivered on our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare when it passed the American Health Care Act in May. The Senate’s failure to act is a letdown, but we must continue to look for solutions to rescue the American people from this failing law.
But the discharge petition would throw the matter back to the House and do an end-run around the Senate, again making Congress (the people’s chamber) responsible for keeping its promises on ObamaCare repeal.
Brady, along with others, does not support discharge petitions and views them as tools of the Democrats. “Discharge Petitions are used by Leader Nancy Pelosi to circumvent regular order,” Brady explained.
“I support regular order in the House. That is, drafting legislation in the Committees through an open and transparent process — based on hearings, research, etc. — and ultimately sending legislation to the House floor for a vote after it has been approved by the Committee,” he continued.
Brady is also on record supporting replace as a condition of repeal:
[Delaying replace] doesn’t achieve what President Trump set out to do, which is to not only repeal the damaging effects of that law, help people who are trapped in it right now – we are seeing it collapsing in front of our eyes … .
Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, who voted two different times for clean Obamacare repeal, spoke with me:
I support either outright repeal or repeal and replace. No, I don’t think repeal alone would have passed the House. In fact, repeal alone failed in the Senate today. But whatever the Republican plan, it will have fewer government mandates and provide more choice for the American people.
In Smith’s statement is an admission that the House — controlled by Republicans — would not vote for clear repeal like it did in 2016 (and in 2015). On the issue of discharge petitions, Smith declined to comment.
Texas Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling, also spoke to me, and was more direct — condemning discharge petitions on Obamacare repeal:
Yes, I always have and always will support the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, and the most important vote so far in this effort was passage of the American Health Care Act in May. I have never supported discharge petitions in the past as they are designed to be tools for the minority party.
“Most importantly, however, the House held up its end of the bargain when we passed the American Health Care Act, and it’s now incumbent on the Senate to follow through. That’s squarely where the focus and energy needs to be right now,” Hensarling continued.
But that’s not true if the House takes up a discharge petition, according to supporters of Garrett’s move.
Hensarling, like Brady, likens discharge petitions to the tactics of the “minority party.” Some may wonder if “reconciliation” [used to pass ObamaCare by former Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi] and closed-door sessions might not also be confused with tactics of the minority party.
“Majority rule, we call it,” Pelosi remarked to a group of reporters right after passing ObamaCare using the same “tactic” Republicans unsuccessfully used to attempt repeal.
Any casual observer watching the GOP fight over ObamaCare repeal would conclude that the leadership was possibly schizophrenic. Republicans are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and they know it. What possible explanation for such self-destructive behavior exists? The answer can be found in basic HR vocabulary.
Republicans work in a “toxic work environment.” Democrats are engaged in hyperactive psychological “harassment” of the opposing party, and Republicans are victims of abuse.
The Democrats enter Congress every day with a basic belief that Republicans are not just wrong; they’re evil. When someone — anyone — starts a conversation with an assumption that the other person is inherently evil, there can be no further conversation.
Consider that the Democrats do not even recognize President Donald Trump’s right to staff his own administration with people he appoints; Obama staffers still make up most of the White House — breathtakingly outrageous.
The Republicans enter Congress every day armed with the naive hope that, at some point, we can just be “Americans” and pull together for the common good of the country. But they are consistently confronted with the crude reality: Democrats hate Republicans for simply breathing. Such “toxic” daily interaction with co-workers leaves the abuse victim with two options: 1) Give in and feel temporarily safe. 2) Keep fighting, and never know peace again.
So then, if one accepts this view, the failure to repeal ObamaCare is not a malicious betrayal of voters — it’s the political equivalent of Stockholm syndrome. The broken promises tolerated by the Republican majority can be better understood by watching Rush Limbaugh’s prophetic speech to the freshmen class of congressmen in 1994.
WATCH (Limbaugh begins at 54:08 min):
“The first thing I would like to tell you, you’re coming into the beltway, Inside the Beltway, and as we’re all human beings, and we all are susceptible to human nature, and we all want to be liked; we all want to be loved; and you all want to live in surroundings which are not hostile,” Limbaugh remarked.
“Don’t — seriously — don’t fall for this … .”
Republicans fell for it, again — hook, line and sinker.
Weber, Babin and Garrett have an opportunity to undo a major mistake. If their fellow Republicans are to join them, the time is now. Carpe Diem!