There is an oft-quoted proverb that may go back to the early Chinese: “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true” or some close variant.
In out discussion today, it relates to the Republicans’ wish that the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – be repealed. For thousands of former Democratic office holders around the country the wish was a little different: “I wish it had never been proposed, voted on, or passed.”
Since the election of 2010 – the first Obama mid-term – the ACA has been a bludgeon with which Republican candidates have repeatedly thumped Democrats. It was never popular, even in Congress.
Obamacare began its life as a completely different bill: H.R. 3590 which was introduced by New York Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel in September 20, 2009 and was titled: The Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009.”
Stay with me, here.
H.R. 3590 passed the full House by a unanimous 416-0 vote a month later.
It was sent to the U.S. Senate.
The U.S. Constitution, in Article I, Section 7, Clause 1; requires that any legislation dealing with taxes begin in the House,
“All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”
So, the Senate decided that the Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009 would be the vehicle for the ACA.”
How? By proposing an amendment to H.R. 3590. An amendment can be as simple as adding or changing a single word. Or, as in the case of the ACA it can be somewhat more complex beginning with words like:
“Strike all after the enacting clause and insert in lieu thereof:”
Followed by a couple of thousand pages of ACA language.
That’s how the Affordable Care Act met the Constitutional test as having begun in the House. Democrats, remember, controlled the White House and both chambers of the U.S. Congress after the elections of 2008, so the ACA sailed through, right? Nope.
The House has 435 voting members. That means, assuming everyone shows up for work, that 218 votes guarantee passage. On March 21, 2010 H.R. 3590, now the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, squeaked by a seven-vote margin: 219-212.
Those seven votes in March translated into a 63-seat gain and control of the House for Republicans in the mid-term election eight months later. Democrats retained control of the senate 51-49, but had come into the election with a filibuster-proof 60-40 margin.
Here we are again. For the third time (putting aside Obama’s re-election in 2012) Republicans ran an anti-ACA campaign and did very well. Republicans retained control of both the House and the Senate, picked up a net two Governor’s offices (bringing the total to 33) and, of course, won the White House.
The major domestic issue facing the GOP-controlled Congress is making good on the promise to “Repeal and Replace” the ACA.
Democrats have learned the lessons taught to them at such a great price by Republicans in 2010, 2014, and 2016: “Oh, yea? Show us what you got.”
As of today, Republicans have nothing or, they have “six or seven replacement plans” which, in the quantum-mechanical world of Capitol Hill, also equals nothing.
There is no question that the ACA needs a major overhaul. It simply isn’t working the way President Barack Obama thought, or promised that it would. While many millions of Americans technically have health care coverage, many of them – because of high premiums and sky-high deductibles – are paying for that insurance, but never actually getting the benefits.
But, the GOP didn’t promise “Reassess and Reform.” It promised “Repeal and Replace.”
Here’s what I believe may happen: The House and Senate will, in fact, pass a bill repealing H.R. 3590. But it won’t repeal it in total right way. Much, perhaps all, of it will take effect at some future date – six months, two years, who knows?
This is not unusual. Most legislation has an effective date different from the date it is signed into law.
But, what may happen is, the GOP won’t be able to agree on the “Replace” part of the deal.
The clock will be running while both within the two chambers and across the rotunda Republicans squabble while Democrats point and laugh.
That clock will run out and the Trump White House will produce a fully-formed Replacement Plan that Republicans in Congress will have no choice but to accept.
Thus will Donald-Care be born.