Local Commentary

Editorial: The GOP Health Care Fiasco

Virginia’s two U.S. Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, jumped on a conference call with mostly Virginia media outlets Wednesday to delineate their grave concerns with the draft health care reform legislation unveiled this week by the Senate Republican leadership. “It’s the worst piece of legislation I have ever seen,” Warner said at the outset. It cuts $770 billion from Medicaid and represents “an enormous tax break for the wealthiest.”

Kaine noted that its impact would be “very tough” on Virginians, with the Medicaid cuts hitting the most vulnerable, the children and the elderly, the most. Kaine was very generous to Republican supporters of the bill when ask if he feels they’re “just heartless.” No, he said, they just haven’t taken the time to appreciate what its consequences really are.

That’s because, he observed, the Republican leadership chose to hide their efforts even from their own ranks when the locked themselves away, with the benefit of no public hearings or open debate, to piece the thing together. Now, they are stalled but not giving up on tweaking the bill to get the votes they need from their own ranks to pass it. The longer it is delayed, however, the less likely those chances become, as the polls are showing overwhelming opposition, with only 12 to 17 percent of those polled approving of it.

Based on these polls, it can be expected that what the GOP senators will hear from their constituents when they return to their home states over the July 4 holiday will only drive them further from passing it.

While Kaine and Warner concurred that only by working together with Democrats can the Republicans get a bill that can win enough support to pass the Senate, the unintended consequence of the GOP’s unilateral and secretive approach stands to leave them in much poorer stead as this fall’s Virginia statewide elections and the 2018 midterm elections approach. They will have no one to blame but themselves for the horrible legislative product they crafted.

Stupidly, the GOP leadership felt empowered to deliver on their draconian healthcare reform bill because they believed that’s what their constituents would swallow.

But their constituents, unfortunately for them, only want a health care system that works for their families, and the GOP fails at that. While the tax breaks their plan offers the super-rich show where their loyalties lie, but won’t play with their electoral base.
That’s why the bill was hidden even from the GOP rank-and-file senators, who feel compelled to be responsive to their popular base. “Just vote for it,” they’re being told by the cynical GOP leadership, and that’s why they wanted the votes before these senators head home to face first-hand public reaction.

Our esteemed Virginia senators tend to be more polite than many in the general public who will be greeting their GOP lawmakers with much more sensuous and colorful language all across the land in the coming days.