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Republicans Stare into the Health Care Void

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To update an old cliché, a good compromise is one that leaves both sides tweeting expletives. And the new GOP Senate health care bill is exactly that. It’s a compromise designed to bridge the gap between GOP Senate conservatives and GOP Senate moderates. There’s stuff in it for every Republican to gripe about, and it’s dripping with swamp sludge, but that’s what happens when 50 out of 52 Republican senators have to agree on something.

This is classic “baby bear” legislation. Ted Cruz’s porridge is too hot for Dean Heller, and Dean Heller’s porridge is too cold for Ted Cruz. The solution is to find porridge that’s just right, not to burn the three little bears’ cottage to the ground.

Sure, it was easy to get 52 Republicans on board for Obamacare repeal when Obama was certain to veto it. Nobody gives a damn about the temperature of porridge that nobody’s ever going to taste. H.R. 3762 — a symbolic 2015 bill that gave Obamacare the mushroom-cloud treatment it so richly deserved — was created to wind up in the dumpster behind the White House. The new Senate health care bill is actually being designed to become law. Suddenly pragmatism and political reality must be taken into account.

Right now, Senate Republicans are faced with a Monty Hall problem, and some of them are failing to recognize it — or hoping voters will. This week, Senate Republicans are a contestant on "Let's Make a Deal." They have three doors to choose from, and behind each door is a different future for Obamacare.

Door No. 1: A Partial Repeal of Obamacare
The bill, which needs the support of 50 senators to pass, gets rid of the employer mandate along with the individual mandate, which — despite the nonsensical, it's-a-tax rationalization of Chief Justice John Roberts — was unconstitutional from day one.

Thanks to Ted Cruz, it allows insurance companies to offer a variety of health insurance options not allowed under Obamacare, which will bring down premiums for those who are just above the subsidy line — the folks Bill Clinton referred to last October as "the people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week" when he called Obamacare "the craziest thing in the world."

Door No. 2: The Graham-Cassidy Plan
Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy are planning to offer up an amendment to the Senate health care bill that keeps most of the Obamacare taxes and sends that tax revenue to the states. It won't reverse the massive Medicaid expansion created by Obamacare, it won't lighten the substantial tax burden of Obamacare, and won't reign in Obamacare's massive Medicaid expansion.

If the GOP Senate health care bill is Obamacare Lite, as Rand Paul likes to call it, the Graham-Cassidy bill is Obamacare Local. It pretends to de-federalize Obamacare by letting states create the regulations themselves, but it continues to be paid for by the same federal tax dollars. So we have less say in how the money is spent, but we still get to turn out our pockets to pay for it.

Door No. 3: Obamacare Forever
Obviously, this is the goat-behind-the-door option — the option that makes the studio audience groan with sympathy for the contestant unlucky enough to get stuck with it. Lots of conservative pundits think it's a great idea to allow Obamacare to implode, but that's not behind any of the doors. It's never, ever happening. It's great rhetoric if you want cheers from Twitterverse conservatives, but it's not good for much else. (go to page 2 to continue reading)

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Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "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." You can bet "some kind of action" is nothing more than a great, big bailout of insurance companies that comes with no Obamacare relief for the middle class, no lifting of the individual mandate, no lifting of the employer mandate, and not one dollar of tax relief.

Then Republicans will be stuck with Obamacare, stuck with the price tag of a big insurance industry bailout, and — the cherry on top — they'll shoulder the blame for not fixing the problem when they had the chance.

Refusing to support the bill because it doesn't completely repeal Obamacare is like catching a fish and throwing it back because it wasn't a mermaid or sending a horse to the glue factory for not being a unicorn. Full repeal of Obamacare will remain a mythical, fantasyland option until somebody invents a device that converts Rand Paul's libertarian idealism into Senate votes. Sans the Rand-izer 3000, there's no Door #4 with full repeal behind it. I wish there were. There should be. They promised one. But no amount of political foot-stamping can make it so.

Democrats are ready with the fireworks and party-poppers to celebrate the failure of this bill because it closes Door No. 1, hands them a #resist legislative victory, cements the gigantic new entitlement Obama created, and undermines the Republican administration they hate.

Eddie Zipperer is an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College and a regular LifeZette contributor.

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