Conservatives Rip Talk of ‘Catastrophic’ Health Care Compromise with Democrats
Activists warn GOP pursuit of bipartisan deal would destroy party, ensure Obamacare 'locked in forever'
Reaching out to Democrats to break an impasse over health care within the Republican Party will not produce a compromise worth supporting, according to conservative activists.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) floated the idea at a luncheon in his home state on Thursday.
“If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
He added: "No action is not an alternative."
David Bozell, president of the activist group ForAmerica, said Democrats have no interest in bailing out the fractured Republican caucus. He added it would demoralize conservatives.
"On a pure political level, it's a fairly foolish, for lack of a better word, [suggestion] to be making," he told LifeZette. "If you want to lose the majority very quickly, re-up Obamacare with Republican votes."
McConnell's comments are an indication of how difficult it has been to find consensus on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act considering his margin for error is just two senators. Go too far in ripping up the current Obamacare structure, and he risks losing moderates such as Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowksi (R-Alaska), and endangered members like Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.). Move toward the moderates, and he risks losing conservatives such as Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Mike Lee (R-Utah).
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement in response to McConnell's comment claiming, "Democrats are eager to work with Republicans to stabilize the markets and improve the law."
That would give Democrats too much leverage, said Grace-Marie Turner, president of the market-oriented Galen Institute.
"The bipartisan solution is Obamacare," she said. "It means the subsidies don't really change. They're locked in forever. It means Medicaid spending stays in place."
Considering those stakes, Turner said, it is possible McConnell's comments were intended as a warning shot to his caucus.
"I'm hoping that's his way of coaxing Republicans to come back to the table," she said. "If they're going to fight over the details, they're going to lose a lot of reform opportunities … I'm hoping this was a wake-up call to both moderates and conservatives who want to get to perfection."
Michael Needham, chief executive officer of Heritage Action for America, said in a statement that talk of a "bipartisan bailout of Obamacare" emboldens Republican moderates and undermines efforts by conservatives to give states more flexibility to exempt insurance companies from costly regulations that drive up the cost of health care.
"If the Republican Party wants to work with Democrats to bail out Obamacare, the results will be catastrophic for the party. For seven years it has pledged it is the party of repeal, and now is the time to work toward that goal."
"If the Republican Party wants to work with Democrats to bail out Obamacare, the results will be catastrophic for the party," he said. "For seven years it has pledged it is the party of repeal, and now is the time to work toward that goal."
Michael Johns, president and executive director of Tea Party Community, said he does not believe Democrats would be willing to engage in any meaningful effort to replace or significantly reform Obamacare.
"Only a very small number of Democrats have expressed any willingness at all to work with Republicans, and most have said it is a complete non-starter," he said.
Unlike other conservatives, though, Johns said Republicans should not be so eager to dramatically reduce spending on Medicaid. That is "almost equally unrealistic as the Democratic embrace of Obamacare," he said.
Johns, who has done consulting work for the pharmaceutical, medical device and home health care industries, said President Donald Trump set himself apart from his competitors for the GOP nomination last year by vowing to protect government entitlement programs. Preventing steep cuts to Medicaid would be in keeping with that populist posture, he said.
"Trump didn't destroy the Republican Party," he said. "He saved the Republican Party."
Bozell, of ForAmerica, said a better strategy might be to enact a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act but delay it from taking effect. McConnell has rejected that approach. But Bozell said that at that point, it is reasonable that some red-state Democrats would be willing to help craft a permanent replacement.
"You got to repeal this sucker now, as the president said in his tweet a couple of weeks ago," he said. "It's not just a matter of honoring a promise. It's about helping people get through a life-and-death situation."