By Tom Regan
The Congressional Budget Office is a bit like a theatre critic. For the people the most affected by what its officials write, it’s only as good as last its review. If it gives a good review, those officials are loved and praised for being perceptive geniuses. But give a bad review and they’re idiots, always wrong, and don’t know what they’re talking about.
Currently, the Republicans are in full “the CBO is a joke” mode because the assessment of Trumpcare released by the office Tuesday is bad, bad news for the long-term health of the bill. The findings that 24 million additional Americans will be uninsured by 2026 (which is two million lower than the White House’s own estimates according to some reports), that poor Americans are the group most affected and that seniors will pay five times as much for their insurance as they currently pay landed like a grenade.
As a result, the main GOP supporters of the new health care plan started a stylized dance around the assessment in a desperate attempt to discredit it. It’s completely disingenuous, of course, because in 2009 when the previous administration introduced the Affordable Care Act, it was the GOP howling in favor of the CBO’s estimates which at the time helped kill the idea of the single payer option.
Yet for all the negative mud slung at the CBO, it isn’t going to help the bill in the Senate where even Republican members of that chamber showed their dismay at the numbers of uninsured predicted in the assessment. Many of these senators were already skeptical about the chances for Trumpcare, especially those senators in states that had signed on to the Medicare expansion and had subsequently seen dramatic increases in of the number of citizens receiving health care. The additional news that seniors would ultimately see their health care costs rise was another body blow because if there is one block of people who can be counted on to vote, it’s seniors – a fact that all politicians, Republicans in particular, know.
The pro-Trumpcare forces led by House Speaker Paul Ryan are not getting much help from the president who, as he does in most cases, tells whatever group of people he happens to be with whatever they want to hear. There is a report this morning, however, that Trump is willing to move the rollback of Medicare and other changes to the insurance marketplace to 2018 from 2020 to appease hardcore conservative members who just want to totally blowup the Affordable Care Act, and are not happy with the bill as it now stands.
This would practically guarantee failure in the Senate because of the reasons stated above. One needs to ask then if this just becoming an exercise in ‘not my problem.’ It raises the possibility that the GOP is aware that Trumpcare may never pass and elements of the party are looking to blame other parts of the party for its collapse because they can’t blame the Democrats any more for anything.
This would produce widespread panic as failure on such a significant piece of legislation would send the Republicans into a tailspin and make plans for items like tax reform or infrastructure spending that much harder. It would also show people that while the GOP can sing in harmony when in opposition, once in government they cannot overcome the divisions in their own party. Add to that the impending investigation into the Trump administration’s connections with Russia and the exposure of Trump as an unstable, jealous provocateur over his unproven accusations of being wiretapped by Obama, and you’ve got a mess of gigantic proportions not even a year into Trump’s presidency.
Democrats need to be careful how they respond to all this. My advice is for the moment reach for the popcorn, sit back and watch it all unfold in front of them.