The congressional quest to repeal and/or replace Obamacare will apparently take another futile turn today. Politico reports the conservative House Freedom Caucus will file a discharge petition to force a vote on a straight Obamacare repeal bill similar to those both Houses passed in 2015. If 218 members sign the petition, the bill will scoot straight to the floor without committee clearance, which rarely ever happens. It would, however, be entirely in keeping with the strange procedures Republicans have used all year in dealing with health-care legislation.
The idea is twofold: to give House conservatives another chance to say “not our fault!” after the Senate’s failure to pass legislation last month, and to put RINO moderates who two years ago voted for the legislation on the spot — and perhaps subject to primary challenges — for flip-flopping on an identical bill now that it actually matters. You can bet conservative groups like Heritage Action and FreedomWorks will have a fundraising and messaging heyday with this latest doomed effort.
And doomed it is unless five of the seven senators who voted last month against the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA) (likely identical to the subject of the House discharge petition) flip-flop once again. Since that’s not happening, it is unclear how this gesture, if it goes anywhere, will improve odds of some legislation finally being enacted this calendar year.
One definite problem with this HFC drive is the strong possibility that the president and his Twitter feed may jump on the crazy train and act as though Congress is going to end this long year of searching for a partial Obamacare replacement plan by just going back to the straight repeal bill they could have enacted months ago. Keep in mind the Congressional Budget Office estimated ORRA would boost the ranks of the uninsured by 32 million and also cause a big spike in individual insurance premiums. It’s unlikely non-HFC House Republicans — or the House GOP leadership —want to have to defend that position yet again, particularly since they know the Senate has decisively rejected it. But somebody needs to make one more effort — perhaps with hand puppets — to explain it all to a president angry that somehow or other Congress can’t keep its promises.